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I was curious about how other school districts have interpreted the role of the oversight committees on their facilities bonds, so I rung up Grossmont Union High School District. This issue has become a hot potato in San Diego Unified, where staffers argue that the committee can only review spending after it has already happened, instead of weighing in on plans beforehand.
Grossmont, however, intentionally wrote language into its last bond, Proposition H, that empowered the oversight committee to review and comment on spending plans, consultants and other issues “prior to any action of the governing board on bond-related issues,” said Scott Patterson, deputy superintendent of business services in the school district.
“There is no fuzz on that issue,” Patterson said. “And it has been working pretty well.”
For instance, the oversight committee weighed in when Grossmont changed its plans, deciding to build new science classrooms instead of merely renovating them, Patterson said. Staffers said the plan would bring in more state funding and provide better facilities for students. Patterson said the committee evaluated the plans, decided they were good ones, and sent its recommendation along to the school board.
“The board now has an independent body, which in our view is the eyes and ears of the taxpayers, and should give the board the confidence that that constituency has weighed in,” Patterson said. “It gives the board that much more confidence.”
I’ll be calling around to find out more about how other school districts have handled this question. Feel free to send me your tips and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.