Bernardo Vasquez is the chair of Sweetwater Union High School District’s Proposition O Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. The all-volunteer committee with rotating membership has been attempting to keep track of the district’s 644 million proposition dollars and building projects since 2006. Seville Construction Group, Inc, the company that was the program manager for Proposition O, was suspended in January.
The bond committee, which Vasquez likens to a dog that has no bite but a loud bark, met February 11 and formulated suggestions that Vasquez will present at the next Sweetwater board meeting, February 22.
In a recent interview, Vasquez said he plans to call on the district to impose a 30- to 90-day moratorium on Prop O projects. He and the members of the bond committee who attended the last meeting believe that before the district moves forward it needs to have a full understanding of what bond monies remain.
The committee also believes the district needs to prioritize the remaining projects and calculate the projected costs.
Vasquez also wants the oversight committee to receive a more transparent accounting of the bond expenditures. Previously, they were given pages of material “with left and right columns that did not add up.” He believes the material should be made more accessible for the committee and the general public.
The committee is also calling for the district to conduct a forensic audit that will “follow the money,” rather than a performance audit, which looks at systematic processes.
When asked about the district’s proposal to spend bond money to buy each incoming seventh-grade student an iPad, Vasquez said that the concerns pertinent to the committee were whether or not the proposition language allows the purchase and whether or not the district had a “well-thought-out plan.”
While he believes the bond language may allow for the purchase of the technology, Vasquez said he wasn’t certain the district had “a sustainable plan.”
From where will the money come for the next round of seventh graders? Where will the money come for updates or software? What about students whose families cannot afford internet connections? These were some of the questions the committee considered.
Vasquez also expressed concern that before purchasing the iPads for an estimated $4 million to $5 million, all of the district projects should be prioritized.
The district is at an important turning point, Vasquez said, and if they don’t exercise responsibility, “there is a strong likelihood the community will never support another bond measure.”
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