Volunteers needed to watch $5 billion in school bond money

Group reviews SDUSD's bond program

SAN DIEGO - A group of volunteers for the San Diego Unified School District is tasked with making sure nearly $5 billion in public money is spent as voters intended.

However, the group has four vacancies out of 13 seats and the empty spots affect its "responsibility as the public's watchdog for the expenditure of Prop S and Prop Z bonds" totaling $4.9 billion, the group said in a letter.

The issue was first raised in April when the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ICOC) sent that letter to the Board of Education.

Roughly three-and-a-half months later, the issue again came up at a meeting attended by just one member of the public and Team 10.

The member of the public was Ron Anderson. He applied to volunteer for one of the vacant spots.

Anderson is with the group Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending, which won an appeal last summer against SDUSD about how it spent bond money. Three judges found the district wrongfully spent public money on stadium lights on Hoover High School.

The taxpayers group still is fighting to have the district return the $2.6 million that it spent on lighting to the bond program.

This year, Anderson has taken issue with the district's decision to use bond money for new swimming pools at schools and has spoken out at meetings against it. He contends the bond money was not meant to build new pools but to fix aging schools.

It appears Anderson is closely watching how the district plans to spend bond money. He now has formally applied to become an ICOC member -- a volunteer position that is not paid.

Anderson said he submitted his ICOC application for review a month ago on July 7 through the ICOC email account, but never heard a word from anyone on the status.

"I think the public should know more about the submission and review process of an ICOC application, along with a timeline from submission of the application to appointment or denial," Anderson told subcommittee members in a prepared statement.

Lee Dulgeroff, the district's chief of facilities planning and construction, said the ICOC process of vetting candidates may be slow because the group's bylaws had just been revised.

He said the committee was just "getting our feet wet" and they would take a look at the process.

Dulgeroff manages the district's oversight of the bond programs. He gives updates to the ICOC at committee and subcommittee meetings and answers questions, but he is not part of the independent group.

He recently received a title change from executive director to chief of planning facilities and construction. Dulgeroff went from salary grade 44 to 50.

When asked to elaborate after the meeting about the application process for the ICOC, Dulgeroff said his staff collects applications and sends them on for further review. He does not.

The ICOC's bylaws state the superintendent or a "designee" will review applications and make recommendations to the Board of Education. The school board ultimately selects ICOC members, whether candidates submit applications, are nominated or appointed by the board.

Meanwhile, Dulgeroff said this is the district's busy time, when it spends "a million dollars a day in construction."

Some projects currently underway include the Academy of Business and Technology at Clairemont High School and the new track at Green Elementary School.

State law requires an oversight committee for these bond programs.

A construction subcommittee meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. The next full ICOC meeting is Thursday, Aug. 21 at 4 p.m.

There is no school board meeting in August. The BOE's next meeting is Sept. 9, and there is no agenda posted yet.

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