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PVUSD trustees to discuss drug-sniffing dogs in schools, budget

Posted: Monday, Jan 14th, 2013




WATSONVILLE — The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday will meet “Jessie,” a Labrador retriever trained to sniff out illegal drugs and weapons.

The dog will give a demonstration for the trustees, who will discuss the future possibility of bringing such dogs into PVUSD schools.

No decision will be made Wednesday on bringing “safety school dogs” into PVUSD schools.

The trustees will also review the district’s safety plan, and hear how Gov. Jerry Brown’s Jan. 10 budget proposal might affect PVUSD.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Murry Schekman, the demonstration of Jessie’s olfactory prowess — in which the dog will possibly be tasked with finding a hidden bottle of liquor or a bullet — is in response to an inquiry by one of the trustees about the possible use of dogs in PVUSD schools.

The trustees will also discuss students’ constitutional rights, should such searches ever be approved.

Schekman said that no decision has been made as to which schools the dogs would visit.

“The intent of the demonstration is not to bring this for one school or for one part of the district,” Schekman said. “It’s to give the board information about something that is being used in other districts.”

Julia Ford, who owns Hilmar-based Proactive K-9’s, stressed that her service is not providing “drug dogs.”

“These are safety dogs,” she said. “They make it safer for kids to come to school. I tell them that Jessie is there for them, not to get them in trouble.”

Ford’s dogs are not trained to search students, and in fact consider themselves off-duty when they are around young people, reacting as a “friendly dog” might, according to information provided by the company.

Instead, the dogs search lockers, vehicles and bags for illegal drugs, commonly abused prescription drugs, alcohol and several types of gunpowder, Ford said.

When alerts happen, Ford said she presents a report to school administrators.

“If I find something I leave it up to the school district to determine whether they want to call the police or handle it in-house,” she said.

The trustees are also slated to discuss the district’s safety plan, which was adopted in May 2008 and covers procedures in the event of fires, natural disasters such as earthquakes and other hazards. The district also has procedures in place for medical emergencies and pandemics, and for threats by individuals or groups.

The discussion item, for which no decision will be made, was prompted by the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in which Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults.

“Safety Plans are reviewed regularly at the sites and now is also a good time to review our safety and emergency preparedness policies and practices throughout the entire district,” Schekman said.

The trustees could also get an optimistic message about its budget after Gov. Jerry Brown submitted a budget proposal Jan. 10 that changes the way schools are funded, and boosts that funding by billions of dollars.

Brown’s budget increases per-pupil funding to $2,700 by the 2016-17 school year. That means a $2.7 billion increase for K-12 and community colleges net year and $19 billion by 2017.

Under the new plan, every school would still receive the same level of per-pupil funding that was lost when the recession hit.

But it dramatically shifts the way schools are funded, increasing funding by at least 35 percent to districts with large numbers of economically disadvantaged students and English language learners.

Pajaro Valley Unified School District Chief Financial Officer Brett McFadden has said the proposal would mean a “significant increase” to the district’s per-student funding. McFadden said that district staff was attending workshops Tuesday to determine what effect the new budget will have on the district.

•••

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the District Office Boardroom at 292 Green Valley Road in Watsonville. For information, visit www.pvusd.net.

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