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School: Give us back that bell

Historic bell ownership in dispute

Posted: November 26, 2008 9:35 p.m.
Updated: November 27, 2008 4:30 a.m.

The bell at the Jo Anne Darcy Newhall Metrolink Station originally belonged to the Saugus Union School District.

A local school district that gave up its historic school bell 30 years ago now wants it back.

The bronze bell, first hung at Saugus Elementary School in 1908, now graces the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station in Newhall. But the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society is reluctant to part with it.

City Council members voted 3-2 this week to submit a letter to the society requesting that the historical bell be returned to the Saugus Union School District.

"We do appreciate that the Historical Society did find a permanent location working with the city," said Judy Fish, Saugus Union School District superintendent.

"The unfortunate thing is that we were not involved in that discussion and that happened long ago with a different board, a different superintendent, and today we are here to acknowledge appreciation for your consideration of the bell coming back to us," Fish told council members Tuesday night.

Fish and Judy Umeck, Saugus district board president, said the school district would handle all the expenses related to moving and replacing the bell.

They city estimates place the cost at nearly $32,000.

When the first Saugus Elementary School closed in 1978, then-school board members voted to donate the bell to the Historical Society.

The bell remained in storage until 2000, when Historical Society members placed it on permanent loan with the city for display at the train station.

The city spent some $100,000 engineering and building a tower for the bell at the station.

Pat Saletore, executive director of the Historical Society, wants the bell to stay at the train station where people can hear it, see it and appreciate its history.

"If this had come up 10 years ago, this would be a great idea," she said.

Councilwomen Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste voted against the letter that requests for the bell to be returned to the school district, saying it is not part of the city's role to be involved in a decision between the Historical Society and school officials.

"It's really an important precedent if we do this," Weste said, later adding that it is important to recognize the Historical Society's wishes to keep the bell.

"It's definitely not within the city's purview to do this," she said.

Councilman Frank Ferry cautioned that future school administrators could one day change what happens to the bell if the district gets it back.

Several speakers pleaded with council members to transfer the bell to the school district.

"Even though we're not there to hear it ring each time to welcome the children to school, it is still a connection to the past," said Bailey Hill, 9, a fifth-grader at Bouquet Canyon Elementary School.


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