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A school board election like no other

Posted: July 31, 2009 5:46 p.m.
Updated: July 31, 2009 5:46 p.m.
 
So you say you want a Castaic High School?

Prove it. Run for a seat on the Hart school board.

Seriously. The filing period opened Monday and you've got until Aug. 7 to file for one of three open seats in the November election.

Actually you've got until Aug. 14 because two of the three incumbents - Dennis King and Patricia Hanrion - have announced plans to retire. The filing period is extended by one week when one or more incumbents bow out.

King and Hanrion served the community well, leading the district through periods of rapid enrollment growth and some challenging social dilemmas.

It's a shame their last two terms have been marred by so many broken promises to the people of Castaic.

Twice the school board asked the people of the Santa Clarita Valley to go into massive debt to build a high school in Castaic, and twice the voters gave their consent - with nary a high school to show for it.

We need serious people on the Hart board who've got the energy and determination King and Hanrion showed all those years ago when they were first elected.

We need fresh blood - badly.

As luck would have it, we've already got a short list of qualified candidates who have indicated they want to take a shot at the two unoccupied seats - namely Joe Messina from the local business community, and Suzan Solomon and Bob Jensen from the Newhall (elementary) School District. Incumbent Paul Strickland is vying to retain the third spot.

How committed are Strickland, Messina, Solomon and Jensen to keeping the Hart district's no. 1 promise to the community (a Castaic high school)? Are they the right people? Do they have what it takes?

They will need to prove to the voters that they have the smarts to wade through the financial reports, as well as the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the NIMBYs who will inevitably surface no matter where a high school is proposed.

Remember, it's not just about Castaic. It's also about relieving overcrowding at Valencia and West Ranch high schools, where Castaic students are sent.

Superintendent Jaime Castellanos says the entire community must stand shoulder to shoulder if we're to see a Castaic high school, and in a sense he is correct.

As a community, we need to bury our hatchets and look at every proposed school site with fresh eyes - whether it's the Sloan-Hasley property that is already owned by the SCV Facilities Foundation or the adjacent Lombardi property, which came within a hair's bredth of serious consideration nearly a decade ago until foundation executives worked a deal next door.

We can blame Castellanos and his predecessor and their senior staffers for dropping the ball on the financial end of things. We can - and do - blame the school board for failing to exercise its proper oversight responsibilities, and for misleading the public into thinking a $158 million bond measure would get the job done.

But we refuse to accept the notion that they'll squander the latest $300 million bond measure they way they threw away $42 million of the last one.

Building a Castaic high school is the district's top construction priority and we need school board leaders who will put that priority ahead of everything else on the wish list, be it new performing arts centers or upgrades to existing campuses.

Every school board candidate should be prepared to explain exactly when and how they will keep their predecessors' promises.

The people of Castaic deserve no less - and neither do the voters who obligated themselves to the tune of $458 million within the past decade alone.

It's this year or never. This is a once-in-a-generation school board election.

We strongly encourage the best and the brightest to give it a whirl.

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