By Bill Lindelof
The chief of security for Sacramento Unified School District, Vince Matranga, is retiring.
He has been with the district police force for 36 years, the last 24 years as chief.
Matranga has been the public face of the district when vandalism, fire or violence has occurred on school campuses in the urban district.
In a parting letter to Sacramento media, Matranga, said he is sad to leave after working so long in the district but looks forward to retirement.
Matranga's father, also named Vince, was a sergeant with the Sacramento Police Department before retiring after more than 30 years. Other members of the Matranga family also have been in law enforcement.
Matranga said the incident that stands out most from his long tenure with the department is the flooding of the Luther Burbank High school auditorium. In September 1999 six young vandals sneaked into the school during the Labor Day weekend and flooded the auditorium with fire hoses.
Damage was estimated at $250,000. District leaders called it the worst case of vandalism in the district's history.
The minors were ordered to pay more than $46,000 each for the damage. Repairs at the school included a new stage, new carpeting and seats.
"The flooding of the Burbank auditorium was incredible," Matranga said. "I remember standing on the stage and looking out onto an auditorium submerged in 3 to 5 feet of water. The seats were under water because the auditorium is below ground level, so the water did not leak out the doors. In the orchestra pit, the piano was under water."
Matranga also saw the gang influence move from neighborhoods onto school campuses.
"In the 1970s it was only Bloods and Crips," he said. "As time went on, there were more and more gangs. But with the school resource officers from the Sacramento Police Department on our high school and middle school campuses, it has really kept (gang) activity to a minimum."
Matranga has led a department that provides safety for more than 40,000 students and thousands of employees and also is responsible for monitoring close to 800 security cameras at schools and other district properties.
"In large urban school districts you have to have cameras," he said.
In addition to bringing in the security cameras, Matranga has helped supervise the upgrading of alarms to catch vandals and burglars.
Instead of using only silent alarms on doors, motion detectors were installed to catch intruders breaking in through windows.
But Matranga said cameras and alarms are no substitute for neighbors to watch the schools.
Matranga started a school neighborhood watch program in 1990. Matranga knocks on the doors of homes surrounding schools, introduces himself and hands out a card with phone numbers to call if something suspicious is spotted on campus.
"It's worked out beautifully," he said. "The homeowner keeps these little information cards next to the telephone, and we dispatch somebody right away."
The district has not announced Matranga's successor.
Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.