United Homeowners Alliance
A California Community Organization for Artesia, Cerritos and Surrounding Areas
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United HOA
16407 Greenlake Lane
Cerritos, CA 90703
ID #1293711

Please Do the Right Thing

A Letter to the ABC Board of Education

To: Honorable Members of ABCUSD Board of Education

Cc: Dr. Mary Sieu, Superintendent

August 14, 2014

Dear Members of the Board:

I'm writing to you as a last ditch effort to convince you that it is premature to place the $195 million bond measure on the November ballot, and therefore you should do what Pomona USD did and agendize its removal from the ballot for the September 15 board meeting. It is prudent to avoid an unnecessary confrontation with taxpayers and seek their understanding and support instead. In the long run, this is in the best interest of everybody.

Most people I know care about our schools as much as they care about their own homes. They understand the need for our school district to remain competitive when neighboring school districts raise funds with bond measures. They also understand there are legal provisions for school districts to issue bond measures as a way to raise funds for the upkeeping of school facilities.

That said, there are the right way of doing things and the wrong way of doing things. Many people are upset not because what you are trying to do, but because how you are doing it. The exclusion of public input and the lack of scrutiny of the real condition and needs of school facilities are reasons why you are doing it the wrong way.

As an example of the right approach, I suggest that you pay a visit to Orange USD's website at http://www.orangeusd.k12.ca.us/facilities/plan/canyon/index.asp and check out how they are doing it. I have also attached one of their FMPs (they call it campus report) for your reference. There you will see every improvement project is listed in detail, complete with the distress condition, the recommended correction, the cost of the correction, the professional assessor's name and date of creation, etc. By contrast, the projects listed for each school in our FMP have none of these details, and are therefore a lot less convincing. In addition to all the meticulous details in their plans, OUSD has also conducted numerous public forums and sent brochures to local households explaining what they are doing. Theirs is a model a great school district like ABCUSD should emulate. Obviously, it takes time to do all of this. That is why you should take the bond measure off the ballot for now and give it a second and better chance in two years.

I was very disappointed at Board President Tse's move on July 15 to lower the amount of the bond measure from $60 to $50, because it leaves the impression that the board is more interested in getting the money with less resistance than satisfying the real needs of school facility improvement projects. For the same reason, I was also disappointed at the discussion of fund allocation methods on August 12. If funds are really needed for specific projects, why are we even talking about allocating funds by enrollment size or by square footage?

I hope you agree most residents of the ABC school district are well-educated and reasonable people. What they don't like is being treated with contempt and dishonesty. If you take a step back and treat them with respect and sincerity the way OUSD treats their residents, you can win their understanding and support and be treated back in kind. On the other hand, if you believe there is no need to do this and it's perfectly alright to ignore the general public, then even if you win at the ballot box, you will only succeed in further damaging the already strained relationship between the school district and the general public it's supposed to serve. On this point, I would like to remind all board members of your fiduciary duty to reach out to the very people who put you in office, hear their voices and protect their interests, the way two of you have already done.

Back to the bond measure, you hold the key to either dividing or uniting the community you serve. Please do the right thing and take it off the ballot to avoid a very divisive and costly battle on the campaign ground. Doing so doesn't mean we give up what we set off to do. It simply means we want to do it better. To that end, you need to

  • Explain to the general public that mistakes were made with the 1997 school bond and there was a general lack of transparency and accountability, but this time you will do everything you can to make sure it doesn't happen again.

  • Further scrutinize the condition reports and project lists in the FMP and make sure they are accurate.

  • Provide more details for the various projects proposed in the FMP, including the estimated cost of each project.

  • Invite members of the general public to review and critique the FMP, and make changes and modifications accordingly.

  • Re-assess our real needs for school facilities in the context of demographic projections and enrollment decline, and reconsider the number of school facilities we must invest in.

If you do all the homework, you will have in a year or two a much better FMP the general public can support. You will then issue a bond measure to raise funds to pay for the estimated cost of all the facility improvement projects that have been proposed. If that amount needs to be the maximum allowed by law, i.e. $60 per $100,000 assessed property value, then so be it. You will still have the support of most voters at that time. I promise I will support it, and I believe my neighbors will support it as well.


Benjamin Ao


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