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Clock ticking on Measure SA

School officials have 60 days to form advisory panel

Posted: January 27, 2009 9:14 p.m.
Updated: January 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

School officials, who want to make sure $300 million in voter-approved money is properly spent, have 60 days to form a Measure SA oversight committee.

The formation of a more proactive committee comes after members of Hart Parents for Reform met with district officials in October to expand the scope of the Measure SA oversight committee.

The meeting prompted some against Measure SA to support it, and the bond easily passed in November.
"They (committee members) will be involved in reviewing project budgets and they will be involved in providing input to the district regarding projects that are on the Measure SA project list," said Rob Gapper, William S. Hart Union High School District chief operations officer.

While the oversight committee is not a policy-making group, the members would take on an advisory role on Measure SA projects.

Applications for spots on the Measure SA oversight committee should be ready for the public this week, Gapper said.

"They are a group of citizens that report to citizens that the money that was approved to be spent is being spent on the projects and in the ways that the voters approved," Gapper said.

Gapper anticipates the formation committee will present board members with a list of recommended committee members during the March 18 district board meeting.

"I clearly believe there should be accountability and transparency," said Paul Strickland, a board member for the school district.

The top priorities for the Measure SA money is to build a Castaic high school, add performing arts auditoriums at Saugus and Canyon high schools, finish two modernization projects at Hart High School, Placerita and Sierra Vista junior highs, Gapper said.

Second-priority projects on Hart's list include replacing portable classrooms with permanent classrooms and building another continuation high school, Gapper said.

Bowman High School is the district's only continuation high school.

The oversight committee includes seven to 17 members, Gapper said.

The group includes five mandatory positions: a business community representative, a senior citizen organization representative, a member of a taxpayer association, a parent or guardian of a student from a Hart district school and a member of a local parent-teacher organization at one of the Hart district's schools.

Hart district Superintendent Jaime Castellanos, board members Paul Strickland and Gloria Mercado-Fortine and a private citizen will review the applications and make recommendations to the governing board about appointments, Gapper said.

The board ultimately decides who will fill the private citizen position, but Joe Messina, member of Hart Parents for Reform and Measure V oversight committee member, would like to see a business leader affiliated with the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and Valley Industrial Association to fill that position.

It's a thought shared by district officials.

"I think that sounds like a good idea," Strickland said. "One of the reasons that we are so successful in Santa Clarita as a valley and as a city is because we have a great relationship between the businesses, the schools, the city and the community leaders, as well as all the nonprofit groups."

Strickland envisions the ideal candidates are focused citizens.

"I would like whoever it is to really immerse themselves in it, and have the time to attend all the meetings and ask questions," Strickland said.

The district currently has a 13-person Measure V oversight committee, that meets regularly until the Measure V funds run out.

"That's still a couple of years away," Gapper said.

Voters approved $158 million Measure V in 2001.

Applications from Hart district parents are welcomed, but the district places an emphasis on people who have finance backgrounds and experience in real estate, development, construction or master planning of communities, Gapper said.

Messina sees applicants as involved local citizens.

"These would be community members that were active in the community, involved in the community and that they would have the ability to look at the plans, bids, and financial structure on the front end," Messina said. "This would not be an after-sight committee."

Messina sits on the Measure V oversight committee, but is not interested in applying for a position on the Measure SA oversight committee.

His focus is on the proper spending of money.

"If you don't even want to smell bond number three, we have to have the right people on the Measure SA committee," Messina said.

Phil Ellis, chair of the Measure V oversight committee, wants the Measure SA committee to have more responsibility and to act more as a "sounding board" for the district.

Ellis served on the Measure V oversight committee for three years and remains undecided on whether to apply to the Measure SA oversight committee.

"The idea now in today's environment is spend those monies as wisely as you can," Ellis said.


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