I’d like to give a big thanks to the Pajaro Valley Unified School District and its board of trustees for moving forward with the much-needed renovation of Watsonville High School’s stadium. On Wednesday, the trustees approved a contract for the design of the stadium renovation.
This is a project that the community has for years—decades even—asked the district to complete, and I, as one of those people, am more than willing to give thanks to the people who made this happen. So, thank you to PVUSD staff, trustees and everyone who voiced their support for getting us to this moment.
I’d also like to dispel that thought that the estimated $2 million project is a waste of PVUSD’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds it received from the federal and state government.
ESSER funds can be spent on a narrow range of categories, including health and safety, educational technology, mental health services and support, summer and after-school programs and facility repair and improvement. The funds can also be used to address learning loss caused by distance learning.
I agree that the bulk of those funds should be used to help our kids rebound from the last two years. That’s why I think this project is so important. Going to school is more than just sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher. Yes, making sure that teachers have everything they need to be effective is essential, but so too is making sure that students and staff feel comfortable and proud of the environment they work and play in.
PVUSD maintenance employees during Wednesday’s board meeting also brought up an important point: without this renovation, the district would continue to pour in hours of labor and tens of thousands of dollars to upkeep a facility that is bound to fail again and again.
One of those employees, Richard Martinez, now the president of the union representing the district’s classified workers, called the current state of the stadium “an embarrassment” that is often panned by those outside of the district. He said our kids deserve better.
“You put them in a good environment, they will do better,” Martinez said. “You keep them in a poor, disgusting situation, they’re not going to thrive. Let’s give them an opportunity.”
This simply isn’t a way to provide our students with more stuff. It’s how we, as a community, can give our students the outlets they need to become well-rounded human beings—in district terms, promoting the “Whole Child.” As corny as this sounds, sports are more than just the game—I truly believe that. They serve as an avenue to bring hundreds of students, staff and families together. And when all parties take pride in that responsibility, something special happens: a culture is born.
Take, for instance, the boys’ soccer team at Watsonville High, a program that, when it comes to accomplishments in this region, only trails Bellarmine College Prep, a private school with annual tuition of roughly $22,000. The kids that play for coach Roland Hedgpeth are undeniably talented and their dedication is admirable. But perhaps their biggest strength is the effort with which they play. As someone who covered nearly a decade of Watsonville soccer, I can say without a doubt that this is because they take pride in wearing the black and gold colorway and representing Watsonville to the best of their abilities.
Sure, this translates into wins and championships on the soccer pitch. But it also translates to students staying in the classroom and moving on to higher education. Hedgpeth told me a few years ago that in the mid-1990s he started keeping track of how his former players have done after graduating high school. He said that at least 70% of the kids that have played for him have gone on to graduate from college.
This is the Watsonville pride we need across our schools. And having the decency to provide our students, staff and community that use this stadium throughout the year with a working toilet, access for people with disabilities and safe paths to find a seat is the least we can do.
I’ll say it again, thank you PVUSD for doing the right thing.
Tony Nuñez is the Managing Editor of the Pajaronian. Contact Nuñez at [email protected].