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Questions Raised Over Spending In East Bay School District As Voters Weigh Bond Measure

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Da-Lin_BIO-HEAD Da Lin
Da Lin is an award-winning journalist at CBS 5 Eyewitness News. ...
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RICHMOND (CBS SF) — In less than two weeks, voters in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District will decide on a $270 million bond measure. But the committee tasked with how the district spends tax money is frustrated over a lack of information.

There are about 50 schools in the district, which includes Hercules, Pinole, and Richmond. Shannon Elementary, built in the 1960s, is one of those schools.

“The classrooms are breathtakingly small. The kids are crowded,” said Jeff Rubin of the Shannon School Site Committee.

The district wants voters to pass Measure H, a $270 million school bond that they say will be spent on modernizing schools. But this is the seventh bond measure in 14 years, and the oversight committee that’s supposed to track the money says it can’t get information from the district about where it’s going.

“It has to go on the record of how bad this has evolved. And we deserve to be mad as hell,” said Tom Waller of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee.

They said the school district has failed to give them information about how money from previous bond measures has been spent.

“When someone seems reluctant to give me information, this doesn’t pass the stiff test with me,” said Bill Kelly of the Committee. “This reluctance, my gut reaction, I’m an ex-cop, is ‘What are they hiding?’”

Right now, there’s no evidence of mismanagement of the money. Ivette Ricco, chair of the oversight committee, said they just don’t have the information.

“We have the desire to do the right thing. But we can’t do it with one hand tied behind our back,” Ricco said.

In fact, they say this is an example of the district’s lack of respect for the oversight committee. Before they could even leave the district building Wednesday night following their monthly meeting, a district staffer shut off the lights to kick them out.

“I’m sorry that it happened. I’m going to make sure that cultural shift happens now,” said Charles Ramsey, School Board President.

Ramsey said he vows to do a better job communicating with the committee. He said, bottom line, students should not suffer because of adult mistakes.

Voters will decide on June 3rd if they can trust the district with their tax money.

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