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Ex-School Board Member: Martinez’s Measure K Concerns - It's Your Money!

Ron Skrehot, former board member, addresses what he sees as major misdirected money management.

File photo/graphic.
File photo/graphic.

Written by Ron Skrehot, Former Board Member:

It's time that the general public becomes informed about what the current Martinez Unified School District board is doing with your Measure K Bond money.

Under the leadership of board president John Fuller, the board has authorized over $25,000 to hire an architect to create "A Conceptual Master Plan" for Alhambra High School.  

Really, a school which was 80 percent rebuilt 15 years ago has more needs than other schools in the district which have had no major construction in well over 50 years.  What world is this board living in?

The intent of Measure K was to provide funding for all of the schools in this district equitably.  

[Previous: School Board Approves List Of Measure K Projects.]

To date Alhambra High has received a very large share of the $25 million from phase one, and much of that took care of items needed because of poor construction or budget shortfalls for the original high school bond.

But it is becoming abundantly more clear that John Fuller is now hoping to throw up into the air all the funding from phase two bond sales and hope most of it lands at Alhambra again.  

This is completely unfair to all the other sites that still have serious environmental, safety and security issues.  

[Previous: School Board Will Hold Special Meeting Tonight On Measure K Projects.]

Here is a copy of text taken directly from the presentation of the April 28th meeting for the "Alhambra Conceptual Plan": 

"The goal of the conceptual drawings are to help us determine how we can best meet our current educational needs while developing a long-range plan for the future.

How can we best leverage the dollars of Measure K to support 21st century teaching and learning at Alhambra High School?"

Please keep in mind, the district did not make this request of the board, the board requested this of the district.  

The following text was copied from item 16.3 of the April 14th board meeting: 

“Prior to finalizing the phase 2 project list, the Board requested a conceptual master plan for Alhambra High School.” 

Where is the board's vision for 21 century teaching and learning for all of our schools?  Where does the language in Measure K say that long range future plans for one school have priority over current safety needs of all our schools? 

[Previous: Upgrades To Alhambra, Las Juntas On Tonight's School Board Agenda - Take Our Poll.] 

It doesn't, and this plan falls well outside of the intent of Measure K.  

I know, I was on the board when Measure K was first discussed and all of the way through approval to put it on the ballot.

The public needs to know that the one person leading the direction of phase 2 bond spending never supported Measure K from the very beginning.  That's correct, if you don't believe me look at the records.  

Not one time through the entire discussion and process of putting the measure on the ballot did John Fuller give a yes vote.  Now he wants to spend the remaining $16 million dollars carrying out only his vision, not the vision of the people who authored Measure K, got it on the ballot and got it approved by the generous voters of Martinez.  

[Previous: Alhambra High Hillside Project Comes In Under Estimate.]

He wants to spend the remaining money ignoring the stated needs by current school administrators, which Fuller asked for in preparation of the special meeting of January 6th, 2014, but now has completely blown off.  

Fuller is also ignoring a growing segment of the public that is increasingly concerned over safety and environmental issues that are being given a lower priority than Fuller's conceptual plan for Alhambra.  

Fuller singlehandedly is leaving many of our schools behind with his poor direction.  I say singlehandedly because it seems he has no opposition by any of the other board members.  

Board members don't seem to be interested in looking at the original intent of the bond measure which was to take care of the current needs of the district infrastructure, not the personal future pie in the sky wishes of board members.  And there are some board members that believe that it is the state's responsibility to take care of old school infrastructure.  

With the current love affair the state has with "high speed rail" and other money guzzling projects it is not likely that this community, or any other for that matter, will get state funding to rebuild old schools.  

And if we did, who pays for that funding in the first place?  We do.

The other new piece that affects Measure K is the new state mandated "Local Control and Accountability Plan" which will hold districts accountable for student performance where one of the measures is physical environment.  

But the current board majority doesn't seem to be interested in that either.  The community has plenty of opportunity to weigh in on those mandates and decide how they will be taken care of.

Now Fuller feels (along with other board members) that if enough concerned citizens become distracted by starting a movement for a future bond measure (which will be needed if we want to bring all of our schools up to the same standards enjoyed by Alhambra High School) he can continue to ignore the intent of Measure K.  

He feels he can continue to ignore what was promised to the voters of Martinez as well as the students of all of our schools, not just the Alhambra community.

It's time the public knows the truth, it's your money! 

Signed: Ron Skrehot

Former Board Member

Jim Caroompas May 21, 2014 at 09:40 AM
Good observation, Frances. I can tell you from years of covering local government, including the school board, that the machinations of local government have come to strongly rely on a lack of citizen participation. Not that they're evil or have hidden agendas. But simply put, it's much easier to operate when you only have to answer to a small group of people. In the case of the city council, the city manager and staff present plans, ideas, etc., and the council approves them. If only the usual nutjobs show up to rant, then the council can just approve the plans, say there was minimal opposition, and take credit for those plans which seem to work, and admonish staff for those that seem to fail. Either way, no one notices, because no one really knows what's happening. It's the same with the school district. These are complex issues; a school board agenda is nearly impossible to decipher, given the bureaucratic language that is embedded in every item. This is not an accident. It is intended to discourage pesky public participation. The board gets to move in whatever direction it deems best, the administration gets to propose things, and they work it out without the microscope of public awareness and input. It's just easier. It's not a conspiracy, it's a convenience. Things don't get done efficiently if Joe and Mary Public keep showing up to throw a wrench into the operations. The electeds get very nervous if their pet projects or plans cause us to show up and complain. They would rather make splendid little speeches about them, vote to approve and move on. There is no full record, by the way, of any school board meeting. There are brief minutes, but no record of discussion. This has been true for many years. That alone is cause for alarm, or should be. All this is due to the slow deterioration of local media, and the carefully crafted notion that the media is inherently biased and bad. This was also no accident. TV news is now mostly about death and balloons, things that look good on camera. Martinez has Patch and the Gazoo, but neither are very well used by the community. People want entertainment, not information. So yes, the trust we have in local government is often misplaced. But we don't realize that until it's too late. At the next election, we continuously vote for the largest signs, because it's all most of us have to go by. That will not change until we decide as a culture to change it. I for one am not holding my breath...
Nancy Rieser May 21, 2014 at 01:08 PM
Teaching for the "21st Century"....what exactly does that mean? Here in Crockett, the same euphemism is being used to encourage public support for a bond measure as well. Makes me wonder if Martinez is using the same consultant! Kids are not using sticks to do match problems in the dirt. Today, computers, tablets are wireless. Yes, I understand architects and builders need jobs like everyone else....but exactly how would a school building designed for "21st century" education differ from a building built some time ago? Maybe desks need to be bigger to accommodate spacesuits?
Cindy May 21, 2014 at 03:47 PM
It is apparent from the article that its author has a very strong opinion of what direction the school board is taking. I am also sure that John Fuller has his opinions as well. The voters and taxpayers need to have their opinions heard as well. So, how do we go about creating an open community? The current system where the only source of information comes from attending a board meeting is obviously falling short for communicating information. As Jim had mentioned even attending and trying to understand the Agenda can be challenging. I do not necessarily agree with the fact that people want to be entertained instead of informed. I think as our conscious level as a society as a whole rises we have to continue to find new ways to get information out. Accountability is one of the greatest foundations that appears when everyone is informed.
Ron Skrehot May 24, 2014 at 09:44 PM
Please keep in mind that I have not implicated the district staff in this issue. The problem addressed here lies squarely with the board. I also do not suggest the issue is with the bond itself but lies with the proposed inequity in spending between Alhambra High and the other sites for phase 2 of the bond. Future bonds will be required if this community wants our elementary schools brought up to the same standards as Alhambra but there are many security and classroom environment upgrades that can be put on the phase 2 project list that the board doesn't appear to be interested in doing. If you agree then everyone needs to show up at the June 16th special meeting to voice your concern. We don't know yet the start time until the agenda has been set the Friday before. Ron Skrehot
George March May 27, 2014 at 01:38 PM
I jumped on board following the Measure K monies as I had a passion to see through to the completion of the AHS PAB project. Partly because, as it was described to me by a former school board member, "a mismanagement of funding for the original construction of the PAB resulted in the scaled-down product that was delivered..." minus band room and choir room. The money ran out [because it was 'directed elsewhere', or there was mishandling was not specifically inferred nor confirmed - it was just gone.] For the music program, and students who populate the PAB for classes regularly, I wanted to see an efficient and complete facility for their studies, and practical facilities for those involved teachers. I participated as much as possible at schoolboard meetings, and meetings with the architects and teachers involved to push for full funding and encourage the most practical use of approved funding to create the best facilities possible (and with several decades playing with and working with bands and understanding their needs I have a pretty good understanding) and to be sure that the funding was distributed appropriately as dictated by the language of the original measure for which we, the citizens, voted. Several times I shared concerns with the school board regarding poor design ideas (citing specific needs of space use) that the architect presented. The result in most cases was water off a duck's back. The architect apparently held all the design control because they were 'the experts' (and I was just a concerned taxpayer) and they want a pretty, award winning product regardless of our needs and built in the flaws anyway (think bank vault with full-height windows). I applied to be on the Measure K Citizen's Oversight Committee figuring that this would be a great place to be sure funding was spent correctly so it was not again 'lost' regarding the PAB completion project. Following being denied I realized this actually was a good thing because this 'oversight committee' really has NO say, and does not oversee anything. All they can do is point fingers long after the money is gone-spent correctly or not. Not what I wanted to be able to do if I were a part of the committee. Well, the band room is now officially open and is a great addition for the program, even with its flaws. It will serve the students well. Regarding tier-2 funding, I feel the school board should revisit the language of the original bond to determine proper usage. I know that certain board members have pet projects they want seen through, but the language and needs presented by the voters should get first, second, and third-tier priority long before pet projects.

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