Eight of the 11 people in charge of overseeing San Diego Unified’s $2.1 billion school construction bond should come from a specific set of organizations, including the Association of General Contractors and the regional Chamber of Commerce, according to a new proposal from San Diego Unified staff.

The oversight committee is supposed to monitor spending on the bond and make sure the funds are spent legally. It also gives advice to the school board. The new proposal would encourage the school board to ask specific organizations to suggest people who have expertise in the construction industry, both public and private, to sit on the committee.

“Inclusion of individuals having these skills will contribute to the efficient and effective execution of program,” the proposal says.

The oversight committee members are currently chosen by the school board to fill specific categories required by law, including a parent, a taxpayer advocate and someone active in a senior citizens organization.

Under the new plan, appointees would still need to fit those categories, but eight would first be suggested by the selected groups.

Talk about revamping the committee has come after months of debate over what the oversight committee should be. The group has sometimes wrestled with its role, arguing over whether it should weigh in on politically sensitive issues such as a labor pact on school construction. It is supposed to act as a watchdog, but there are strong disagreements about when and how it can step in.

School district attorney Andra Donovan said the plan would not limit the school board to choosing people from the specific organizations it named. But some members of the school construction oversight committee said it seemed to do just that. If people could be chosen to serve on the oversight committee from any group, they asked, why name these groups in particular to nominate people?

The Sierra Club wrote a letter to the school board arguing that the new system “would favor the developer community to the exclusion of the regular citizens and the environmental community.” School board President Richard Barrera said he had heard from a number of groups that had similar complaints that the new process would skew the makeup of the oversight committee.

The oversight committee was divided on the plan and did not weigh in on whether it was a good idea. Instead, it gave some basic recommendations to the school board on how new committee members should be chosen, such as ensuring that the committee members are diverse.

The groups mentioned in the proposal are:

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

American Institute of Architects

Association of General Contractors

The American Institute of Certified Public Accounting/CalCPA

Construction Managers Association of America

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

San Diego and Imperial County Building and Construction Trades Council

City of San Diego, County of San Diego, State of California, or Federal Agency Representatives

The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed changes on Tuesday night. The plans are pressing because eight of the 11 members of the oversight committee are due to be replaced next month.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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