Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Superintendent Julie Haff Credits "Our Wonderful Community" at Library Dedication

As the SLV Cafeteria filled up with community members, students, teachers and staff, the buzz in the room was about the previous weeks windstorm that blew trees and branches down and knocked out power for days from Big Basin to Paradise Park. Neighbors compared damage estimates, or the height of debris piles or when the electricity came back on and shared unique SLV experiences like the packed dinner celebration to honor the angels of the Valley Churches United at Scopazzi’s on Thursday night, lit by lanterns and candlelight or the opening night production of Our Town at Park Hall on Friday where the actors carried flashlights for illumination.

Then SLVUSD Superintendent Julie Haff stepped to the podium and the overflow gatherings attention quickly turned to the present.

Haff expressed surprise and pleasure at the size of the turnout as she began the proceedings to dedicate the stunning 13,500 sq ft, two story, library and tech center building which is neatly positioned between the High School and elementary school and connected to the Middle School campus by a bridge entrance to the upper floor.

Haff recalled the shock the community felt when it was discovered that vandals set fire to a garbage can that ignited the high school library on a winter’s night five years ago destroying the contents and leaving a gaping scar in the middle of the campus. She paid tribute to the Felton and Zayante fire departments who contained the blaze and she spoke about the efforts of her staff in fashioning a temporary library while a permanent solution was sought.

After introducing the school board members, Haff was quick to credit “our wonderful community” and spoke of the tremendous amount of input and encouragement she received as individuals and groups came together on behalf of our students.

Haff introduced and paid tribute to the contributions of architect Beverly Prior, consultant Nancy Litvak and the construction crew from Barry Swenson Builders. (On behalf of the students she accepted a stack of books on design, construction and sustainable energy as a gift from the builders.)

The Superintendent expressed her appreciation for the assistance the district received from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, State Senator Joe Simitian and his staff as well as County Supervisor Mark Stone.

The district eventually proposed an 18.7 million bond measure to fund construction of a new library, additional elementary classrooms on two campuses, an upgrade and renovation of the performing arts center at the High School and a variety of other infrastructure improvements. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure in 2008.

After acknowledging the effort that so many made to ensure passage of Measure O, Haff asked members of the bond oversight committee to stand and be recognized. Haff then introduced board member and the director of the Measure O campaign drive, George Wylie, who declared that we were at the scene of the “brightest spot in education in the entire state of California”

Wylie predicted that both current and future generations of students would walk into the building and say “It’s really cool.”

Wylie thanked all the people who helped to pass the bond measure and especially members of the oversight committee who he said worked tirelessly on the communities’ behalf to make sure that “every dime that was spent went towards what the voters intended.”

“The building was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. How many times have you heard that?” Wylie asked. Adding that “Without Julie Haff this would not have happened.”

Haff then introduced board president Lea Dakota who presented a commendation to district project manager Erik Slaughter in recognition of his contribution to “the crown jewel of the projects.”

Next up was SLV High School principal Mike Arredondo who read from the plaque affixed to the entrance to the building dedicating it to “The Students of San Lorenzo Valley”. Arredondo echoed the overwhelming sentiment of all the speakers in their appreciation of the San Lorenzo Valley community by saying that “Whenever there is an identified need, the adults of this community step forward to meet it.”

SLV Middle School principal Michael Calden noted that the building was the first “real” library for his school and that the upgraded collection of books and materials brought us into the 21st century. After laying down the rules: “no food or drinks, no gum and no greasy fingerprints on the windows or computer monitors” Calden invited everyone to choose between the ground floor or upper level entrances for a simultaneous ribbon cutting.

Then the assembled streamed into the building.

As attractive as the exterior is, with multiple pathways heading in all directions, wide windows and the distinctive beacon tower in the center, the subtle landscaping and the near perfect footprint; it is the interior that takes your breathe away.

The High School library is on the ground floor and is entered from the center across a lawn from the cafeteria building. Above, is the middle school library which is entered from the opposite side via a bridge from near the middle school gym. Both floors feature a vestibule which houses lavatories and elevator and from which you can access the computer labs or the main library rooms. The beacon tower protrudes from this area and allows sunlight to splash though during the day and provides a guiding light at night.

Each floor has a dedicated technology center complete with brand new wide screen Apple computers, a projection system and comfortable, roomy workstations. You get the feeling that you’ve walked into a NASA control room or a Silicon Valley startup.

The main library rooms on each floor are distinctive from one another. Nearly 10,000 brand new volumes fill stacks that are strategically positioned to provide a variety of private and shareable work spaces. It feels almost as if these are two completely different buildings, each with it’s own special ambiance. There is a definite academic, almost collegiate, aesthetic at work on the ground floor while the upper level, still very much a first class library, manages to evoke a certain whimsy.

The combination is a noble edifice that will not only serve and inspire generations of learners but will stand for decades to come as convincing evidence of the values this community has for education and for our youth.

Whenever SLV residents recall the recent windstorm or that library fire five years ago, we will likely remember most how we responded, how, as a community we came together and how, as a result, life got better. And then we will remember, with pride, why we live here.

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