Ventura’s Boys & Girls Club closes after dispute with school district
The Robert Addison Boys & Girls Club, a staple of the Westside of Ventura since 1968, closed after a dispute with the Ventura Unified School District over state grant requirements.
The club has been located on the site of 1440 N. Olive St. for over 50 years. He started renting the property from the school district in 1999.
The club’s activities and offerings were found not to meet the California Department of Education’s after-school program grant requirements, said Marieanne Quiroz, a spokesperson for the district.
Patti Birmingham, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura, disagreed, saying the club’s programs were state-compliant.
But according to the school district, the state agency identified the after-school program in March 2019 as in need of “critical technical assistance.” The school district will not go into details of how the Boys & Girls Club has not complied with its requirements.
Birmingham called the problems “small” and said the club and school district were responsible for the problems.
“(The After School Education and Safety Program) was a grant that has helped the club fund programs that we have already run and will continue to run,” Birmingham said. “Most ASES programs are held on school campuses, not in clubs. Ours was unique. “
Birmingham said the building was owned by the club and the land had been leased to Ventura Unified. The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura existed before the after-school funding and will continue thereafter. The club has three other locations in Ventura, the club’s CEO said.
The partnership between the school district and the club existed before the grant was funded, Birmingham said.
“We respect the VUSD, and they respect us. We both try to serve children in the best possible way,” she said.
The last day
The Olive Street club held a celebration on June 10. Under the terms of the lease, the club had to vacate the premises by June 30.
“It was a very difficult time,” Birmingham said.
Ventura Unified offered to extend the lease until the summer, but the club refused, according to the district.
Birmingham said the school district did not want to renew the lease for the property.
“Once they don’t renew the lease, even though we own the property, they can take the building,” Birmingham said. “It’s called land improvement. It’s a done deal. We still have a good relationship… we have to work together.”
According to the school district, there is a free after-school program at EP Foster Primary School, which is operated by the city of Ventura. The district awarded the after-school grant to the city through an RFP process and expanded an already existing program that is aligned with the requirements of the grant.
The Boys & Girls Club on Olive Street offered a variety of programs, including homework help, tech, arts and crafts, sports, leadership and more.
Birmingham said memberships remain affordable at around $ 50 per year. Depending on income level, fees might be waived.
“No child has been turned away,” Birmingham said.
In recent months there has been a controversy surrounding a gas compressor which is located near the Westside club. Environmentalists say the Southern California Gas Company’s latest factories to expand or upgrade their facilities are not compatible with the residential neighborhood due to air quality issues.
The school district said the facility shutdown was unrelated to gas compressor issues.
Several celebrities have frequented the club. Former Los Angeles Laker and Hall of Fame member Jamaal Wilkes and former Laker and Phoenix Suns player Cedric Ceballos are alumni, Birmingham said.
One sad person about the shutdown is former club and staff member Stewart Sinclair, who grew up in Ventura and is now an assistant professor at New York City College.
Sinclair, one of five children whose parents were working, said the club saved his life. He said that at the age of 7 he suffered from depression and attempted suicide by walking in the middle of the street in front of the club and waited for a car to run over him.
“I was a very depressed kid,” Sinclair said.
A staff member brought him to safety, and he then joined the club and eventually became a staff member.
He said he understands that there are strict rules regarding grants, but “they should consider at length whether strict adherence to a certain set of academic guidelines is missing the forest for the trees.”
Sinclair said the importance of the club outweighs the negatives.
“Where are you going to find a program as affordable as the Boys & Girls Club that will give you a summer program, an after-school program, mentoring, college counseling and especially in a neighborhood serving students who otherwise would have no access to these types of programs, ”he said. “There are hundreds of kids on the avenue who need something like this.”
The school district plans to repair the facility and bring it up to standard, according to the district. Once this work is completed, the district will work with neighborhood schools to decide which programs should be implemented in the building.
Birmingham hopes to secure a property within walking distance of the old location by November. Because the school district serves young children, she wants the new center to accommodate teenagers.
“This is our first priority,” Birmingham said of the teenage center. “After that we will look at the younger ones. You have to do it step by step.”
Birmingham said it would be a challenge given they are hoping to find land which can be donated to the club.
“I have no doubts that the right pieces will connect eventually,” Birmingham said. “It’s just about getting the word out and being proactive.”
Wes Woods II covers West County for the Ventura County Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 805-437-