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Let Professional School Managers Do Their Jobs

October 27, 2002

Re "Don't Let the Schools Down," Oct. 13:

I served as the Santa Ana schools' assistant superintendent of facilities from 1989 to April 2000. During that time, Santa Ana Unified constructed 19 new schools. As the editorial stated, the district passed a $145-million local bond measure in November 1999 but has built no new schools in the last three years and has no projects under construction. What happened?

Quite simply, Santa Ana Unified School Board members John Palacio and Nativo Lopez usurped the authority of the district's administration and decided to manage this multimillion-dollar public works program themselves. Unfortunately, neither of them possesses any qualifications to assume such a responsibility.

As a result, state funding application deadlines have been missed, projects have experienced massive cost overruns even before they have been built, and the district's facilities department has seen a major "brain drain" as competent, experienced managers depart in frustration.

I now manage the facility program at Vista Unified School District in north San Diego County. In March 2002, our community passed a local bond measure. Within six months, the district had three new schools under construction, and we will start a fourth new school project before Thanksgiving. This is what happens when the school board allows its professional facility managers to do their jobs. I only hope that Santa Ana Unified has learned this lesson.

Mike Vail

San Clemente

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