Trustees on the Gustine Unified School District governing board clashed with each other and members of the public Wednesday night over criticisms of the board’s transparency and district management of the Measure P bond.
Members of the district’s bond oversight committee have questioned the district’s use of a lease-leaseback construction method in the Gustine High School locker room project as well as how the money was spent.
Voters approved the $14 million Measure P in 2014 for facility repairs and upgrades. The first project, a new locker room at Gustine High, was completed this year .
The lease-leaseback method, part of California’s education code, allows school districts to skip the competitive bidding process.
Andrew Bloom, the vice president of the bond oversight committee, submitted a public records request on Jan. 30 to the district for correspondence between Superintendent Bill Morones, the bond consultant, architect and financial officer. He also requested meetings with Morones and trustees. Bloom said in interviews with the Sun-Star that he received only a handful of the emails he requested, and district officials were reluctant to meet with him.
Bloom has questioned the use of the controversial no-bid method, saying the process has been poorly managed. He’s hoping to a shine a light on district procedures to ensure the money is used properly.
Some board members also voiced frustration with criticisms raised by Bloom and others, including trustee Pat Rocha, who asked her constituents to contact her directly.
“I prefer they call me before they get on some sort of bandwagon,” she said. “I want to be able to do my job with a clear mind and a clear heart. ... I can’t take this witch hunt that’s going on.”
Robert Borba, a parent, sharply criticized the board and superintendent for the lack of transparency in responses to Bloom’s records requests.
“We just want some answers,” Borba said. “I walked the streets for this bond. ... This is a fire, and it’s just growing.”
Borba also said he was offended by Rocha’s “witch hunt” comment.
Board President Crickett Brinkman said the criticism “lies on me with a heavy heart. I’m trying to do the right thing.”
And Trustee Kevin Cordeiro said the public has a right to know and understand district business.
Ron Estes, the former Gustine Unified superintendent who now works with the San Joaquin County Office of Education, said during Wednesday’s meeting that he was disappointed and concerned about what’s been going on. But, he said he supports the lease-leasback process and the construction firm hired by the district.
Jarrett Martin, another community member, spoke during public comment to urge the board to quickly move forward in forming an ad hoc Measure P advisory committee, which will advise the governing board on how to prioritize upcoming Measure P projects. The district currently is accepting applications.
In response to bond-measure management, Rocha suggested the board participate in a study workshop on Measure P.
Brinkman also requested a meeting with Bloom and Morones.
Bloom said he was appalled by some of the the trustees’ behavior during the meeting. He said Brinkman and Cordeiro are the only trustees who have made any attempt to meet with him and help him.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477