At a crossroads on crossing guards

Alhambra considers private contractor to manage crossing guards


The number of requests for crossing guards in Los Angeles exceeds the number of actual guards, as of 2022, according to LADOT. Photo couresy of LADOT.

Why did the Alhambra student cross the street?

Because there was a police officer to help substitute for the missing crossing guard.

The city of Alhambra is short five crossing guards. Thankfully, Alhambra police officers have been filling in, guiding children on their way to school. 

But that’s not a good long-term plan, police officials contend, and they proposed a solution at a recent council meeting: Hiring a private contractor to take over managing cross guards. The plan has some in the city worried, especially the crossing guards who stand to lose their seniority and the pay that comes with that.

Police suggest hiring a contractor

At a meeting late last month, Alhambra City Council discussed the idea of contracting crossing guard services to All City Management Services (ACMS) to address the problem in the longer term.

Currently, 13 crossing guards are employed under the city’s crossing guard program, leaving five locations unstaffed. The Alhambra Police Department has reported approximately 50 instances per month where police personnel was called in to cover as crossing guards.

Alhambra’s assistant chief of police, Eddie Elizalde, gave a brief introduction of the plan to city council members. 

“The police firm has administered a crossing guard program over the last few decades. Historically, our personnel and training section have not been able to sustain hiring and retaining skills in hiring and retention of crossing guards to meet the community’s needs. This is due in part to the minimum hours and split shifts required for the position,” Elizalde said. “We regularly have to pull safety personnel and professional staff from other sections within the police department to post the vacancies.”

So, he said the police department came up with a possible solution, hiring ACMS.

If the plan is accepted, he said all currently employed school crossing guards would be hired by ACMS management and paid minimum wage.

“ACMS would be responsible for the hiring process, staffing/substitution, payroll, staff training, supervision, workers compensation, and all administrative costs,” according to a staff summary of the proposal.

That’s what concerns Alhambra City school crossing guard employees. They worry they would lose their current posts, wages, and the relationships they have built at their current posts with students, parents, and schools. 

“We are privileged to be the very first and very last face of each student’s school day. Gives me so much joy that they see we do make a difference. We give them our smile and greeting, good morning and a goodbye,” Peggy Russell, 73, said.

Russell, an Alhambra resident, has been a school crossing guard since 1988. Russell told city council members that there is an alternative solution to the problem rather than transitioning the management to an outside vendor: “Being locally controlled and managed and personally training leads to more confidence and familiarity between the guards and the school community as well as the driving population.”

“Alhambra has not given us a raise in more than eight years. Most of our crossing guards here still make minimum wage, $15 an hour,” she added. “Why not offer us a decent wage that will also entice people to hire on and stay on with our city and be retained and grow with us? Offer a hiring bonus as you do with other positions.” 

Other residents agree with Russell and hope the city council will look into alternative ways to keep all current school crossing guards at their posts as well as hire locally.

Shirley Tatsuno, 69, an Alhambra City resident lives across the street from Peggy Russell’s current post.

“I don’t have children, but I live right across the street from the school and I see Peggy, she’s been there for 34 years. I’ve lived in the city just a little bit longer than that. So you know I just think they’re so important. You know, they’re working beside the traffic, because the traffic is kind of scary, too,” Tatsuno said.

Katherine Lee, an Alhambra City council member, said the understands Russell’s concerns about crossing guards losing pay raises they received from the city over the years and she said the city could indeed lose its ability to manage the guards and oversee the crossing guard program.

“I kind of wonder how much control we [the city] have over that guarantee because essentially, they are under a different employer. Not to be suspicious or anything like that, but when they’re under a different employer, I think we relinquish all control over the policies,” Lee said. “Even though it sounds really great…as we all know, when you switch to a different employer, there’s a different expectation, different management, so I understand…your fear.”

No ACMS representative was in attendance at the meeting to answer any concerns residents, city employees, and council members had about the plan. Despite a phone call and emails, ACMS representatives could not be reached for comment.

The Alhambra city clerk’s office declined to provide more information about the contract because of the city’s ongoing negotiations with ACMS. The council will meet again at a later date to continue to discuss this plan before anything is finalized.