The School Board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District and its community of families, students, teachers and staff take great pride in its bond program. Thousands of students are now able to enjoy safe, modern, and accessible school buildings as a result. I look forward to offering the rest of the students in West Contra Costa County the same access. Board members and I are humbled by the show of support this community has made over the last 15 years by supporting school bond measures that help local children. We understand our responsibility as the fiscal stewards of this community's valued resources and all of us take it to heart.
The comments of Associate Superintendent Bill Fay that were referenced in the May 28 Contra Costa Times editorial do not reflect the values and commitments of our Board of Education or the operation of our bond program. They were made at a meeting in January of this year and came from frustration rather than belief. While budgets do get adjusted upward in order to meet current expectations and realities, it’s important to remember when, not too many years ago, the projects at DeAnza High School, and King and Dover elementary schools came in substantially under budget.
The driving force in our bond program is equity. We believe that all of our students deserve to be educated in facilities that are seismically sound, designed for safety, and conducive to learning. Much has changed in our community and society since schools were constructed to allow easy access, little was known about the impact of earthquakes, and technology consisted of typewriters, filmstrip projectors, and card catalogs.
Our community understands the needs of our students and has generously supported a program whose foundation rests on the premise that schools must be renovated or rebuilt to a standard of quality that the grandchildren and great grandchildren of today’s students will appreciate. Program standards are updated every other year to comply with changes in building codes and the evolving needs of our students. Learning walls that allow teachers to quickly reframe the work in front of their students are now standard. Safety measures like keyless entry and doors that lock from the inside are now part of the program.
During the formative years of the bond, our Board implemented a system of checks and balances to ensure that the schools were built as envisioned and that the bond dollars were spent as intended. Annual external audits review the entirety of the program, from financial underpinnings to school construction, from the sale of bonds to the efficacy of architects. Those audits have helped make the program better. Reports dating back more than 10 years are available on the district’s web site.
The Board and its Facilities Subcommittee devote significant time, effort, and energy to ensure that the promises to our voters—and our students—are kept. The district has never exceeded its tax-rate targets for any bond measure even with a 20 percent decline in assessed value during the great recession.
With equity as a guiding principal, our Board will continue to renovate and build schools that will last for 75 years, giving future generations an appreciation for the vision of our elected leaders and the commitment of our voters.
Bruce Harter Superintendent