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[whitespace] Parents and students voice fears at high school district meeting

Willow Glen--No sooner had the standing-room-only crowd at last week's school board meeting recited the final line of the pledge of allegiance when a sea of signs reading "Save John Muir" and "Kids' Safety First" shot into the air.

The July 1 public meeting of the San Jose Unified School District had been called following a recommendation from superintendent Dr. Linda Murray that Broadway High should move to the John Muir Middle School campus. Despite nearly three hours of protests and threats from angry Muir parents who worry that the Broadway students will be a bad influence on their children, the board voted 4-1 to follow Murray's recommendation.

"We don't want Broadway in our backyard," said Mike Sprintz, who lives near John Muir. "Why shouldn't we be up in arms?"

A continuation high school, Broadway accepts students who drop out of other San Jose Unified high schools, mostly because of attendance problems. Forty-five of the school's 300 students attend the school's young mother's program.

The move will put 25 portable classrooms at the far end of a field on the John Muir campus, with fencing separating the schools. River Glen Elementary's two-way Spanish immersion program will then move into the former Broadway school.

Broadway's move should happen by spring.

Some parents said once Broadway moves in, they will yank their kids out of John Muir. Others threatened litigation against the school district.

Moving Broadway to John Muir, located at Branham Lane and Cherry Avenue, will bring graffiti, gang violence and drug problems to the neighborhood, said some parents and students.

But John Cimino, the district's maintenance manager, said the parents' fears were unfounded. "Broadway has less graffiti and vandalism problems that any other school in the district," Cimino said.

Several Muir students attending the meeting also said they do not want Broadway in their back yard.

"The Broadway campus needs to be separate," said Stephanie Studebaker, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at John Muir. "The students of both schools will be able to talk and fraternize with each other and this will cause problems."

Classmate Erinn Bock echoed Studebaker's concerns.

"The Broadway kids are bad influences," the 13-year-old said. "Even as a black belt in karate, I would be worried about my safety."

The majority of students who attend Broadway are there for attendance or tardiness problems, Myers says.

"Violent kids are not going to go to Broadway," Myers says. Students with serious behavioral problems are expelled and sent to a county community school program, she added.

But the Broadway stereotype still exists--and was visible in Technicolor at the July 1 meeting.

"I bet none of you have been to Broadway," said 17-year-old Nadia Martinez, a junior at Broadway, with tears streaming down her face. "A lot of you would be surprised at the dreams we have. Just because we go to Broadway doesn't mean we are less than anyone else. We go for our education. We're not going to make trouble."

In March, a team of eight Broadway students won first place in NASA's Western Regional robotics competition, and competed at the national level in Orlando, Fla.

The continuation school is also a two-time winner of a Bay Area-wide spelling bee.

"These are good kids that are there for different reasons, and I think people assume a little too much," said Jason Morrella, who teaches English and robotics at Broadway. "I've chosen to stay here. The kids are incredible."

Toward the end of the evening, Marilyn Dion, a River Glen Elementary parent, approached the board. She described an experience she had while returning books to the school library a while back. As she entered the library, she said, a half dozen children caught her eye. They were sitting on the floor mesmerized by a robot that was picking up books and other objects off of the floor. A group of high school students stood near by, operating the robot for the kids.

The robot was Blitz, and the students were the Broadway robotics team.

"I want to thank those students for being role models for my students," she said.

Some parents opposing the move said Broadway deserves its own campus and a separate identity.

"We need to do something for these kids," said Greg West, who authored a petition to keep Broadway off of any existing school campus. "But let's not treat them as second class. If these kids really deserve the education let's spring for the money, let's buy the land and let's give Broadway its own campus."

But that's not an option, say board officials.

"We would love it, Broadway would love it, but with the present real estate situation in San Jose it's not going to happen," board president Carol Myers said.
Jessica Lyons

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Web extra to the July 8-14, 1999 issue of Metro.

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