Madeline Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey: Response to West Contra Costa Times Article


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blogimage.jpgThe West County Times published an article by Theresa Harrington on Sunday 8/17/14 regarding the West Contra Costa Unified School District bond and school construction program. The article contained many misleading statements and unfair assertions which leave the reader skeptical and suspicious of our program which we feel we need to address.  We invite the Times editorial staff and writers to meet with us to become better informed about our bond program.

The following are the facts regarding our highly successful program – one that the voters, community members, staff, teachers and – most of all – students can be proud of.

How we managed our funds:

  • The District received $240 Million in state matching money – one of the highest returns in the state
  • We exited State receivership – 6 years early on 7/1/12
  • We improved the scores from our financial rating agencies from A- to A+ (reducing  interest rates and our bonds no longer need to be insured)
  • In personal terms, the interest rate on our financing equates to a 2-1/2% annual interest rate on a 30 year loan
  • Crowe & Horwath LLP - District bond financial auditor states:  “West Contra Costa Unified School District complied, in all material respects, with the state laws and regulations … nothing came to our attention to indicate that West Contra Costa Unified School District had not complied with the state laws and regulations.” (Independent Auditor’s Report on Compliance with State Laws and Regulations – 12/12/13) (emphasis added)
  • Our last refunding/refinance effort reduced financing rates on the bonds by 11% - saving the District taxpayers $10 Million (industry standard and average refunding savings is 3% - thus we far surpassed industry standards)
  • All financial and performance audits are available on line
  • Total repayment on all outstanding bonds is  “2 to 1” (much less than industry standard which is a repayment of “4 to 1”)
  • We are in total compliance with Prop 39 guidelines and have never exceeded tax rate limitations in the 15 year history of our program

 Projects:

  • We operate on conservative assumptions regarding financial market conditions and believe we can complete all projects in our pipeline over the next decade
  • All schools are built to the same board-adopted standards – costs fluctuate due to financial and construction market conditions

In Santa Clara they spent $1.2 Billion to build a football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers -- in West Contra Costa Unified here’s how we spent your $1.2 Billion for you:

 36 renovated or rebuilt schools:

  • Complete rebuild of DeAnza and El Cerrito High Schools
  • Major upgrades to: Kennedy High School and Richmond High School
  • Complete rebuild of Pinole Valley High School (in process)
  • 4 completely rebuilt middle schools:  DeJean/Richmond, Pinole Middle/Pinole, Helms/San Pablo and Korematsu/El Cerrito (in process)

    New Continuation and Charter School (shared campus) (in process)
  • Hercules – 2 new elementary schools:
    • Lupine Hills (rebuild)
    • Ohlone (rebuild)
    • Pinole – 2 elementary schools:
      • Stewart K-8 (renovation)
      • Ellerhorst (renovation)
    • Unincorporated Areas:
      • Tara Hills - Remodel of
        • Tara Hills Elementary (remodel)
        • Montalvin Elementary (remodel and new building),
      • Kensington Elementary (remodel and new building),
      • North Richmond - Verde Elementary (new building and remodel)
    • San Pablo – 4 elementary schools:
      • Bayview – renovation and new building
      • Dover – new school
      • Downer – new school
      • Riverside – major renovation
    • Richmond – 11 elementary schools:
      • Murphy – major renovation
      • Sheldon – major renovation
      • Valley View – new school (in process)
      • Ford Elementary  - new school
      • Washington Elementary (major renovation)
      • Peres (major renovation including state-of-the-art dental clinic)
      • Lincoln (major renovation)
      • Nystrom – new school (kept historical shell) (in process)
      • Coronado – new school (in process)
      • King – new school
      • Mira Visa K-8 - renovation
    • El Cerrito – 2 elementary schools:
      • Madera (renovation)
      • Harding (renovation)
    • $35 Million for technology district-wide

We take great pride in our bond program and, as your school trustees, are committed to manage the program efficiently and with the utmost transparency so that voters and community members can have confidence in the school board.   Moreover, our board meets annually – and sometimes twice a year – with the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee.

We don’t believe the recent defeat of Measure H is a sign that the public has revolted against the program.  Please remember that in 2003 a bond measure was defeated and we also have lost four parcel tax elections.   In each case we were able to subsequently succeed in convincing the voters to support us again. 

The Times article is an inflammatory hatchet job on a program that is well respected by those in the industry.  We cannot stand idly by and permit this mischaracterization to dominate the narrative regarding this program which is dramatically improving the lives of thousands of our students and enhancing all our neighborhoods.

Thank you for taking the time to read this response and if you have any questions please feel free to contact us.

Charles Ramsey – 510-682-5600
WCCUSD School Board President and Facilities Subcommittee Member

Madeline Kronenberg – 510-334-9646
WCCUSD School Board Member and Facilities Subcommittee Chair

 

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  • commented 2014-08-19 14:46:23 -0700
    When I see the allegations against the WCCUSD Bond Program I find that I have to look at who it is that’s fighting so hard to kill the program.

    What I see are people who have been trying for years to secede from the District to form their own district where they can control every facet of the educational process in their area.

    I see people who tried running for the School Board but were rejected by the voters and now want to sell their sour grape juice to anyone who doesn’t mind that it tastes so bad.

    I see people who have partnered with the California Charter School Association who want to take over the WCCUSD and turn it into a charter school district where there will be no accountability, no bond program, no Ivy League Connection and where they can cherry pick which students get the best educational opportunities (and who will be excluded).

    I see people who demand that bond money be spent to replace schools in their neighborhoods even though the existing schools could get by with repairs and renovations. [What I heard while serving on the Bond Oversight Committee was that they didn’t like that people in other parts of the district got new schools and they wanted their slice of the pie, too.]

    I see people who want to walk away from their neighborhood schools that need the help of local volunteers and advocate instead for school vouchers and charter schools.

    I see the kind of people who allowed our schools to fall into decrepitude like they did for nearly a half century until they were falling down around us—and now they want to whine because they have to pay taxes to repair and replace them.

    I see people who think that square box school buildings (the kind you see in run down third world countries), chalkboards instead of smartboards, schools without computers, no athletics, no arts, no music programs, no drama programs and no state-of-the-art science labs are “good enough”.

    I see people lacking in vision and people who don’t believe the children in our community are worth a decent education to prepare them for a life outside of the run down neighborhoods many of them are stuck in.

    When I see who it is that’s pushing for the downfall of our school district, I’m not surprised at the allegations they’re spouting. I’m just surprised that they crawled out from under their rocks long enough to spread their contempt for what the voters have approved.
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