City cans crossing guards

Outside of Club Estates Elementary, Ora Fernandez directs traffic away from the crosswalks to allow children to cross both before and after school.

Dina Ruiz/Staff Writer

Corpus Christi crossing guards became the latest victims of budget cuts this year when the City Council recently confirmed that the Crossing Guard Program was cut from the budget and as of February 1, 2012 there will no longer be paid crossing guards in the local public school districts. Instead the city will recruit volunteers to occupy the post held by the previous crossing guard for each school.

Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) and Flour Bluff (FBISD), Callalen (CISD), Tuloso Midway (T-MISD) and West Oso (WISD) independent school districts will all be affected by the cancellation.

Paul Mora, a local retired firefighter who has been a crossing guard for Fannin Elementary for the past five years said he is concerned for crossing guards who rely on the job as their main source of income.

“To me it doesn’t make a difference because I still get an income but there are a lot of people out there who really need this. They really need this job,” Mora said.

According to Mora, the Crossing Guard Program began feeling the budget cut last year when the guards’ hours were cut and previous benefits were eliminated.

“We used to have vacation time and we used to have personal time off, but they took all of that away from us. Now we don’t have anything. In fact, last year they cut two hours away from our schedule,” Mora said.

“I like it because I love my kids. I’ve been crossing some of them since they were in Pre-Kinder. I would have done it for free if they would have asked me, but they are pushing it on us, and I don’t like to be pushed,” said Mora.

Mora said he doesn’t believe that the city’s resolution of volunteer crossing guards will work because of the conditions that they would have to endure.

He said, “When they do away with us and bring in volunteers you don’t know what you are going to get. We are trained, we have been certified, and we have had background checks. They say they are going to get parents and teachers. Do you know anybody who wants to be out here in this hot sun? No. Or in the rain? No. Or in the cold? No. Not for free.”

Another major concern that has been raised is the children’s safety if their school is left without a crossing guard on major streets. Mora’s post is at the corner of Gollihar and Devon and he said that speeding is a huge issue.

“You can come by here at 3:15 and you will see cars going through here at 50-60 miles per hour in a school zone. This year I’ve already had four near misses. Last year I was hit and I had to have knee surgery because of it,” he said.

“We are supposedly just old retired people who are here because we don’t have anything else to do but if you go check around a lot of us have some kind of education. I know a couple of people who do it that have master’s degrees. It’s not what it used to be before. But they take us as second-rate citizens. They treat us like we are trash. At least that’s how it seems to me,” said Mora.

CCISD Board member Tony Diaz said that the responsibility for the children’s safety lies only with the city and he recently made an appearance on a local TV station to voice his opinion on the matter.

“It’s a tragedy waiting to happen if they don’t take care of the responsibility to provide for the safety of our children on dangerous and hazardous crossings on their way to and from school. They say it’s parental responsibility but that’s why the parents elected them – to take care of that responsibility,” said Diaz.

Diaz said the parent volunteer plan will not work. “It’s dangerous out there even with a crossing guard. Can you imagine with a parent volunteer? That won’t work. How can you hold the parent volunteers responsible if they don’t come every day? What are they going to do?”

Diaz said parents should be concerned and he urges them to speak up against the cut. “I see this as child neglect and I hope that the parents will speak up and say they will not put up with it. I think they need to get together and petition because we have a right to petition our government. I would love for them to call me. I will lead the charge.”

CCISD Superintendent Scott Elliff addressed the situation during Coffee with the Superintendent last Wednesday. Elliff said that while the crossing guards are there to ensure the safety of the students, the program is the city’s responsibility.

“Some people think that the crossing guards work for the school district but they do not. Traffic safety is a city municipal function,” he said.

According to Diaz, “It is not a matter of budget. The city’s Finance Office shows over $18 million in revenue (over expenses) that was put in the budget. So it’s not that they have a shortfall.”

Elliff said the CCISD is not able to pay for the Crossing Guard Program but will be working closely with the other surrounding school district superintendents and the city council to resolve the issue.

“We are going to keep working with the city and hopefully we can come to a positive resolution. We are very disappointed the decision was made not to re-fund that particular service but at this time what I can tell you is that we are working on it with them and we are going to work towards a positive resolution,” said Elliff.

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