Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Santa Cruz [County] civil grand jury lambasts PVUSD oversight of Measure L funds

WATSONVILLE >> The Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury released a highly critical report Tuesday deriding the Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s use of Measure L funds and describing the Citizens’ Oversight Committee as “mostly ineffective.”
The Citizen’s Oversight Committee, a group of unpaid community volunteers, is tasked with informing the public, reporting to the board and overseeing whether bond funds have been spent in accordance with the terms and conditions approved by the voters.
The committee is chaired by William Beecher and consists of Shira Coleman, Silva Diaz, Leonard English, Dan Johnson, Doug Keegan and Jim Ivelich.
Measure L is a $150 million facilities bond passed by voters in November 2012 to repair and upgrade the district’s campuses.
The report states that the Citizen Oversight Committee’s work has been hampered by the “limited and inconsistent reporting” provided by the district.
It also states that the trustees have not worked with or directed the Citizen Oversight Committee and the district to carry out its duties.
Civil grand jury foreman Rocco Chappie said the committee’s job is a big one, but it could be doing better.
“If you have as many moving parts as you do in school district the size of PVUSD, it is hard to keep track of all the projects and money — especially when the citizens who volunteer may not have the necessary background or ample support and training,” said Chappie.
When contacted Tuesday, Beecher, the committee’s chair, said he was unable to respond as he had not yet read the report.
“Once I have, I will be able to respond,” said Beecher. “Thank you for your interest. I believe that the school district has responded.”
PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez released a statement within hours of the report’s release Tuesday that strongly emphasized the fact that the district is under new leadership, most notably a new superintendent and a new facilities director.
“The new administration is dedicated to work with the board of trustees to investigate all identified concerns pertaining to the Bond Measure L and Citizens’ Oversight Committee,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also highlighted the use of Measure L funding to date, including 66 projects utilizing $23 million from 2013 and 2015.
Just in the last 18 months, we have accelerated construction and improvement projects with 32 projects completed at 17 school sites using $15.2 million of Measure L funding during the summer of 2016 and 50 projects at 27 school sites are scheduled using $18.9 million in Measure L funding planned for this summer,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said she and her team will review the civil grand jury report and issue a response prior to Sept. 30.
“If improvements are required, the district will make necessary changes with the transparent and collaborative spirit in which the bond was created,” Rodriguez said. “We thank the volunteers of the grand jury for their work and look forward to continuing to enhance our facilities on behalf of students.
June 13, 2017
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Ryan Masters

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