Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

By Samuel Strait – Reporter at Large – April 4, 2022

Clearly former District Superintendent Jan Moorehouse has not kept up
with what is happening with the District’s $25 million, 2008 Bond
Measure.   Promises made to the public prior to its passage and
subsequent history that were not kept, seems to have escaped her
notice.  She clearly needs to be reminded that the public was promised a
gymnasium in Smith River, a boiler replacement at the high school, the
district’s modular classrooms retired, and new classrooms to be built to
accommodate a district projected significant increase in enrollment.

Those of us at the time were not swayed by the argument that the
district’s classrooms would be bulging at the seams and new classrooms
were critical to the district’s ability to provide adequate space to
teach.  It was also promised that the portable classrooms were falling
apart and needed to be replaced with new construction.  Other than the
Gym at Smith River, a questionable priority, and the boiler at the High
School, none of the other stated imperatives of new construction
materialized.  Instead, the general fund for the school district was
utilized to the max for increased salaries and benefits to the detriment
of maintenance for several decades.  Since the Bond was passed and the
projected increase in new enrollment failed to materialize, the district
has used the bond funding for “renovations” at various school sites. Not
what most in the public were expecting to happen.

Those that swallowed the District’s propaganda that the funds, to use
Ms. Moorehouse’s words, would be considered “an enormous public trust to
shepherd these funds into promised projects”. The district further
conducted a slight of hand by promising to form a “Citizen’s Oversight
Committee” which was done to avoid having to reach the 55% margin for
passage of a new tax rather than the 50% plus one hurdle, something the
2008 vote failed to achieve at 54%.  Forming a COC has been discovered
to be a complete waste of resources in recent revaluations, not worth
the time or energy spent.  It protects the public in absolutely no
conceivable fashion, and is merely a rubber stamp for the school board. 
The COC has no power to protect the public, they are in no way
independent, and the reports generally, if produced, simply regurgitate
what the district peddles.

Besides having no independence, no training offered, if that really
mattered, and no independent legal advisor to this day, the district’s
administration controls what happens in meetings as it is the only
source of information offered to the COC to consider. Aside from the
fact that the money was NOT spent as promised, Ms. Moorehouse’s attempt
to paper over the malfeasance of the district’s lack of deferred
maintenance for decades, including the years that she was
Superintendent, is somewhat foolish on her part and clearly
misinformation.  The COC, may have met when she was in place, and she
may have attended those meetings as she claims, yet there is a distinct
lack of records to support her claim.  Beyond that, the COC was not
responsible for the choices made for expenditure of the Bond funding,
the school board was.  The COC had absolutely no oversight capabilities
to check the board’s approval of projects that were entertained, let
alone those that were completed.  The COCs took the word of the
district, in the loosely worded intended expenditures, that what the
district spent the money on was what was intended.  Far from it.

By virtue of the fact that enrollment did not increase exponentially,
nor was the district in any danger of insufficient classroom space, as
the district had projected, the priorities changed and “new
construction” elements of the “promised projects” were substituted for
renovation, spelled “deferred maintenance projects”, that may or may not
have been urgent.  Landscaping, fencing, new heating/cooling systems for
the entire district, carpeting, painting, window replacement, new fire
suppression systems, and new technology was hardly the “stuff” of NEW
CLASSROOM CONSTRUCTION.  The vaunted COC of Ms. Moorehouse’s imagination
was a toothless tiger and not to be trusted.  Who would have ever
expected that to occur?  It is the school district after all.  We were
promised… likely with a “pinky” swear that the money was a sacred
trust, and look what happened, Ms. Moorehouse.

COC’s really only have the power to report what the district told them
to report.  So much for “OVERSIGHT!”, Ms. Moorehouse…. Clearly this
was something well known by the district when the “promises” were made. 
As time has passed, those that distrusted the Del Norte School District
to accomplish what was promised, have proven to be correct.  The
complaint is not that the COC may or may not have been a functional
body, it wasn’t, but that the school district has not kept its promises
to the public as to how the money was to be spent, or whether or not it
was even justified in the first place.  No one is questioning the fact
that you, Ms. Moorehouse, have paid your share of the property tax
assessment, we all have.  Some of us do not take kindly to being lied
too….. a growing trait from public education even here locally..

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