Hart District Watchdog Group Tentatively Withdraws Objection to Measure SA
Opponents support measure provided district keeps it's promises of better oversight.
A group of Hart District parents organized to oppose Measure SA, the $300 million construction bond measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, has withdrawn its opposition to the measure, provided the district keeps its promises to give SA better oversight than 2001’s Measure V.
“We sent a letter to the school board (in August) saying that Measure V oversight was ineffective and it was necessary to have more community involvement beforehand,” said Phil Ellis, one of three leaders of HartDistrictParents4Reform. Ellis shares the reins of the group with Joe Messina and Renee Garneau-Sabol.
After receiving the letter, Hart District Superintendent Jaime Castellanos and some other board members met with Ellis, Messina and Garneau-Sabol on Sept. 30 to discuss their concerns.
“On the issues of oversight, we talked about what the Newhall District did with Measure K, even using the oversight committee as a sounding board before things were presented to the school board. The community was able to give a lot of input and that was a win-win situation where everyone’s concerns were heard,” Ellis said.
Messina said he received an e-mail from Castellanos that addressed the group’s most important concerns.
“The new oversight committee (should Measure SA pass) should have a lot more input,” Messina said. Reading from the e-mail, he continued: “At the beginning of each project, whether it be modernization or new construction, all designs and concept drawings will be shared with the committee. Additionally, all related budgets, including hard and soft costs, funding sources, project timelines and the scope of the project, will be discussed with the committee on the front end, giving the committee multiple opportunities to ask questions, get clarification and provide input into the process and keep the committee up to date with the progress of current and future projects.”
The three basic concerns of the group are increased transparency, input into the process and accountability.
“We also spoke about the importance of communication on a quarterly basis,” Messina said. Now, the Measure V Oversight Committee only makes an annual report; the group would like to have reports at least every quarter and if there is a lot of activity, would like the oversight committee to be able to report monthly at regular school board meetings.
Representation on the oversight committee was another issue; the group asked that a member of either the SCV Chamber of Commerce or the Valley Industrial Association be included as well as a member of the Castaic High Specifications committee.
“We’re comfortable that Measure SA should get better oversight and better visibility as far as projects in the community than Measure V got,” Ellis said. “We are backing off our opposition.”
Messina said that they were told by Castellanos that the district would issue a press release outlining the concessions made during the Sept. 30 meeting, but no documents have been produced. Attempts to reach Castellanos and Board Member Gloria Mercado Fortine were unsuccessful.
At this time it is unknown whether the district will do any kind of press release on this issue.
Both men said that their group has made positive movement to show the district they are serious about their support if their concerns are met.
“We’ve suspended our campaign (against Measure SA) and actually said we’d support it if they would publicly come out and say they supported our concerns,” Messing said. “But the HartParents4Reform committee is not closing. It will remain active as a watchdog committee.”