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December 26, 2006 > Preschool survives

Preschool survives

by Steve Warga

As TCV reported two weeks ago ("City preschool looks for a miracle" 12/12), about 150 Milpitas preschoolers faced closure of their classrooms January 1, due to a shortage of qualified teachers and aides. Parks and Recreation Director Bonnie Greiner outlined the grim news at a city council meeting, December 5.

At that meeting, councilmembers voiced commitment to the program, but offered no solutions. Greiner vowed to continue aggressively seeking new personnel, but acknowledged that finding someone by year's end would be along the order of "miraculous." Well, it wasn't so much a miracle, as it was merely clear-headed analysis and problem-solving. Mayor Esteves, Councilmember Althea Polanski, City Manager Tom Williams and several other key staffers put their heads together and found a solution.

At the following city council meeting, December 19, Esteves gently cautioned a very large group of preschool supporters on hand that a remedy had been identified. "Preschool will remain open during regular business hours in the new year." The mayor's message was that the many individuals awaiting a turn during Public Comments might find their pleas answered already. He acknowledged receiving a flood of phone calls since the December 5 meeting and congratulated those who came forward to express their concerns, adding, "I want to especially thank the parents who came to my house, late in the evening!"

Recreation Services Supervisor, Kathleen Yurchak, presented council with a plan to contract with California Staffing Services to provide temporary preschool staffing through June, 2007 when the city's fiscal year ends. Yurchak advised that the $44,000 contract would be funded from existing Recreation Services budget allocations.

During council comments, Councilmember Debbie Giordano praised the efforts of new City Manager Tom Williams, whom she credited with jumping in to the remedy efforts only days after the retirement of former City Manager Charles Lawson. Giordano restated her desire to see a more permanent solution established when the next fiscal year budget is approved.

Farmers market making a comeback

In other council matters, the renewal of a farmer's produce market in Milpitas seems nearly certain after a rezoning resolution was approved unanimously. Planners have yet to identify a permanent location, but all involved supported doing whatever necessary to get a fresh produce market back in town; even if it means using several locations on a rotating basis. John Silveira, director of the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association, the non-profit group that will manage the Milpitas market, anticipated an opening in late April or early May. He's hoping to have ample supplies of popular sweet fruits, especially strawberries, to attract citizens with "a big splash of produce" for the grand opening.

The lengthy December 19 council meeting also featured numerous public comments opposing an appeal of a liquor license denial by Jerry's Market on South Main Street. Owner Aslam Ali did not appear at Tuesday's meeting, relying instead on his attorney, Rick Warren. On Ali's behalf, Warren argued for a continuance of the hearing until after the first of the year. Several officials and members of Pines Homeowners Association harangued council for granting multiple continuances throughout the license application process, which was first reviewed by the Planning Commission.

As in prior hearings, HOA members painted a bleak picture of Jerry's Market and its impact on nearby families; public urination and defecation, discarded needles, drunken patrons, and litter were among complaints cited. At Tuesday's meeting, however, none of the many city residents who support Ali's request, appeared to speak on his behalf. That these supporters were not available for council testimony was the primary reason Warren offered for a continuance. That request was granted by a 4-1 vote; Vice-Mayor Bob Livengood opposed. Council will hear the appeal on January 16.

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