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Just a little accountability, Hart district

Our View

Posted: August 16, 2008 8:23 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
You want how much?

Just seven years after the William S. Hart Union High School District secured a $158 million bond, the board is asking voters to approve another, this time for $300 million.

More than a quarter-billion dollars.

If approved in November, the general obligation bond would fund modernization efforts and maintenance, and would purportedly relieve school overcrowding by adding a new high school in Castaic.

As for that last item, we’ll believe it when we see it.

We’re all in favor of money to ensure existing schools are in great shape for our students.

Right now, the Hart district’s bond steering committee is in charge of deciding whether to hire a public relations firm to bolster the district’s reputation in the lead-up to Nov. 4.

Our local school leaders could save taxpayers the thousands that would be spent on a flashy wool-over-the-eyes PR campaign by doing two simple things.

Hart district board members, are you listening?

First, once and for all, figure out where to build a high school in Castaic, tell the community when and where you will start construction, and then do it. It really is that simple.

Stop shortchanging the Santa Clarita Valley’s schoolchildren through doublespeak and broken promises.

Stop treating the community of Castaic like an unloved stepchild by denying residents their own school.

Why should the performing arts centers at West Ranch and Golden Valley high schools be completed before a high school is built to serve the greater need at the northwest end of the valley?

What’s the priority?

Enough is enough.

Which brings us to the second thing we ask of the Hart district.

Among the goals listed in the strategic plan the district approved in August 2006 are the following:
n Monitor financial decisions to ensure that they reflect district priorities
n Implement a system of checks and balances that will ensure fiscal responsibility and accountability

After seven years and $158 million, why are we no closer to a Castaic high school? Why are schools without key facilities? Why are schools still using portable, temporary classrooms?

It’s no wonder some parents feel that they’re being given the brush-off.

Recently, a group of parents submitted a letter pleading with the Hart district to either withdraw its bond request from the ballot, or at the very least amend it.

The district “politely” declined, with officials saying their minds were made up and they were acting in the public interest.

What great sweeping demands were these parents making?

Other than the assurance of a Castaic high school, only: “a board that is proactive and not just reactionary; accurate budgets/accountability; checks and balances; transparency; (and) stakeholder input.”

Pretty strong stuff, right? Just taxpayers asking for more accountability when it comes to dumping another $300 million in the district coffers.

Make no mistake. We’re all for money for schools. These students are our future.

With prices for everything always going up, the longer it takes to begin construction, the more expensive it will become.

If the Hart district expects voters to approve twice the amount OK’d in 2001, it needs to start working overtime to convince us we’re getting our money’s worth.

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