History
June 24, 2017
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Organizations pop up in 1964

By: Irene Hilsendager
March 24, 2017
Question arises over merging of Cotati and Rohnert Park
Organizations are springing into being – the Optimists, Active 20/30 Club and a Homeowners Association. The Rohnert Park Women’s Association has taken over the job of decorating the interior of buildings to be converted to community use.
Mayor Smith comments, “One of the best moves we made was to set up the council-manager form of government. This has enabled us to move ahead as fast as we have.”
The original incorporation involved land only a couple of blocks from the hub street system of Rohnert Park’s neighbor, Cotati, older in existence but a bit younger as an official city.
 
Will the two cities 
ever combine?
Mayor Smith has no ready answer for that one, but says the subject is “open to discussion at any time” if anybody wants to talk about it.
The impression he gave, though, is that for the present, Rohnert Park is busy with its own development and that a combining of Cotati and Rohnert Park is a complex matter to be considered at some later time…if ever.
The complexities probably will become greater as time passes with the establishment of governmental policies by the councils, the assuming of various financial obligations by both cities and an increased awareness of Rohnert Park residents of themselves as citizens of their own community.
Just the converse is true of the school system for kindergarten through the sixth grade. Rohnert Park schools are operated by the Cotati Elementary School District, which finds itself much involved with the Rohnert Park growth.
School officials tell much the same story as the city officials; there have been some problems stemming from rapid growth but these are passing with time.
W. Ray Miller, district superintendent, has an office at the John Reed School, which was occupied in January 1962 and has about 520 students.
Of these, about 275 were housed pending opening of the new Waldo Rohnert School, which was ready for final inspection in January; they were to be transferred when the new school opened.
A third school operated by the district is the old Cotati School on School Street, west of the Cotati Plaza area with 420 students.
Annagene Cornish is principal at the latter school. Richard Lyman is principal at Waldo Rohnert and James G. Davidson is in charge of the John Reed School.
To be opened within the next few months is the new Rohnert Park Junior-Senior High School, built by the Petaluma High School District.
Miller believes the John Reed and Waldo Rohnert facilities are among the best in the state, allowing for team teaching and combining of room space by using movable interior dividers.
In one wing, for instance, a combination of one to five rooms is available. The building cost was well in line with state maximums.
Regarding the similarity of the two new schools, Miller comments, “We are one of the few districts in the state to use the same basic plan for more than one school.”
The general tax rate in the district is $1.60 per $100 assessed valuation. Also, there is a 37-cents rate for bond payments and seven cents for state aid payment.
R.W. (Whitey) Waldron, who works in the sheriff’s juvenile department, is president of the school board. Other members are clerk Lester Peterson, Herbert Grutgen, John Downie and Lucien Libarle.
Davidson has been with the district eight years, seeing it grow from a staff of six teachers to 40.
His school perhaps has more student transfers than a school in a more settled community, but he thinks this will stabilize in time.
There has been a close relationship between Rohnert Park and its largest “resident,” Sonoma State College. In commenting on the relationship, Dr. Ambrose R. Nichols Jr., president of the college said, “Sonoma State College now has been occupying its temporary campus in Rohnert Park for 2 ½ years. 
During this period, the campus has grown from three buildings and about 17,000 square feet of floor space to the present six buildings and 42,000 square feet. 
There have been corresponding increases in numbers of students, faculty, non-faculty employees, numbers of courses, numbers of books and periodicals in the library and in all of the other measures of the size and scope of an institution.
“During the early period of our occupancy, the entire area was unincorporated and our only dealings were with Alicia Homes, the developers of the area and with the Rohnert Park Public Services District.
However, we are now within the city limits of the City of Rohnert Park. Along with other advantages this has greatly improved our situation as to security.
We are very well pleased with the way the city government has gotten under way and we look forward to continued pleasant relations with it.
The development of the shopping and service center adjacent to our temporary campus has been a great convenience to both students and staff and I am sure that the college business has been appreciated.
The existence of a busy and rapidly growing institution in the midst of a largely residential community constitutes a continuing challenge to the community, but we feel confident that Rohnert Park will continue to meet the challenge.”
 
Irene Hilsendager’s column each week touches on moments in the history of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Penngrove.