Police returning to high school sporting events

Uniformed police officers are usually present at public high school football games in The City, but that has not been the case this school year.

The $50,000 contract to secure about 35 officers throughout the year at sporting events that are well-attended, considered high profile or against rival schools was put before the Board of Education on Aug. 25.

With the San Francisco Unified School District’s budget tightening, board members are increasingly questioning whether some expenses, such as the security detail, are really necessary.

At the last meeting, board member Sandra Fewer suggested that high schools could use their own security and asked that a decision on the contract be put on hold.

While the contract was in flux, some police officers volunteered or were paid overtime to monitor high-profile games, like those for Mission High School at Kezar Stadium, police Sgt. Lyn Tomioka said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, there was further discussion about the contract. Don Collins of the district’s athletic office said that sporting events for city schools are unique because the events are in open spaces, attracting people from the community. In one year, Collins documented 46 sports-related incidents when security wasn’t as prominent, he said.

School board member Jane Kim questioned his report, asking whether all the incidents involved criminal activity and requesting a full report for next year.

Nevertheless, the police contract was approved.

At any given meeting, the seven-member school board is asked to give approval for dozens of contracts — outlined in an agenda they receive about 72 hours before the meeting — allocating millions of dollars for construction, classroom personnel, physical education, art resources, libraries and other school needs.

Tuesday night’s agenda included 108 “consultant service” contracts — such as a $13,000 contract for weekly sports sessions at Bret Harte Elementary School and a $254,000 contract to screen teachers and build staffing support at “hard to staff” schools — that included more than 200 pages of explanations.

When the board questions individual contracts, however, it delays the services or benefits received by the schools.

The former Parent Teacher Student Association President of Galileo Academy, Linda Lau, said the way spending decisions are made is not ideal.

“I know they have to be more cost effective and I know it’s a delicate balance,” Lau said, “but there’s a lot of stuff on the agenda.”

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