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$635 Million ABCUSD Faciltiy Master Plan Wins Narrow Passage


By Brian Hews

The ABC Unified School District Board of Education approved a new $635 Million Facilities Master Plan early Wednesday morning in a meeting that literally lasted eight hours spanning two days and attracting nearly 300 vocal residents, teachers, politicians, union leaders, and taxpayers who all had strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

The final vote to approve the plan was 4 to 3 with Members Maynard Law, Armin Reyes, Celia Spitzer, and Olympia Chen supporting the plan and President Sophia Tse, Vice President Lynda Johnson and Member Soo Yoo vocally opposing the plan.

Cerritos Mayor Pro-Tem sits inside the ABC School Board Hearing Room after being told to "sit down and shut up" after delivering a rambling talk to school board members. Randy Economy Photo

Cerritos Mayor Pro-Tem sits inside the ABC School Board Hearing Room after being told to “sit down and shut up” after delivering a rambling talk to school board members. Randy Economy Photo

Yoo and Johnson had attended a private meeting organized by Cerritos Mayor pro tem Carol Chen last week. HMG-CN learned from two sources that the meeting was held to craft a strategy to defeat the Master Plan and the Bond Measure.

The board also began the formal process of having a $265 Million General Improvement Bond Measure placed on the upcoming November 4th General Election Ballot. Specific details about the bond will be on the next agenda of the ABC School Board on July 15 beginning at 7 p.m. at the District Headquarters at the corner of 166th Street and Norwalk Boulevard.

Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu and Chief Financial Officer Toan Nguyen, as well as a cadre of consultants, touted the plan as a “working roadmap” that will help future district officials develop a long-term modernization plan at more than 30 campuses and other aged facilities that have not seen significant improvements in decades.

“In order to maintain outstanding student achievement and enhance the quality of education for all students, and to prepare students for the competitive collegiate and career markets of the 21st Century, the District must maintain, repair, upgrade, expand, and improve its educational facilities,” Nguyen told the board and audience.  “The Facility Master Plan is a long range planning tool to address the District’s facility’s needs, nothing more, nothing less, and can be changed, revised or altered at any time, by any future school board,” Nguyen said.

Dejected ABC School Board Member Soo Yoo during Tuesday's ABC School Board Meeting.  Randy Economy Photo

Dejected ABC School Board Member Soo Yoo during Tuesday’s ABC School Board Meeting. Randy Economy Photo

“The mission of ABC Unified School District is to develop a great community of life long learners, creative thinkers, and responsible individuals by providing innovative and high quality educational programs in a safe and supportive environment. As a District we need to go from great to exceptional,” Nguyen added during his comments.

Nearly 70 people testified before the board about the plan and many of them mirrored the position of Melissa Peterson, a resident of Cerritos, and who is an employee of ABC School District:  “Tonight I speak in support of this plan.  As a teacher, you feel valued here, but you can only do with have you have to deal with to help teach our kids in class.  As a resident and taxpayer, this is going to affect me and my property taxes, but I totally support both the plan and the bond to pay for it.”

Ben Ao, a longtime resident of Cerritos and critic of the ABC School Board said he was concerned that residents and voters were not properly informed about the plan or the details of the upcoming bond measure. “I was informed of this plan through private channels; sure better schools make better communities, but I want to caution the school board about transparency, and not doing anything behind closed doors,” Ao said.

Cerritos resident Chung Fu said that the community was not properly informed about the Master Plan.  “Look, 98% of the community doesn’t know what’s going on. You guys decided to put this master plan, before even informing the community.  If we were at the World Cup you would get a Yellow Card and someone would be placed on a time out,” Fu said. His comments got many chuckles around the crowded district office.

Cerritos Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Chen generated cackles from the audience during her series of comments that she made throughout the night.

It was exclusively reported last week in HMG-CN that Chen led a private meeting in her real estate office to prepare a specific strategy on how to defeat the Facility Master Plan. When it was Chen’s turn to speak, she seemed unprepared and rambled past the allotted time, speaking nearly  seven minutes.

Board Clerk Maynard Law admonished her for not following board hearing rules. When Chen continued, members of the ABC Federations of Teachers who were seated in the front row  told Chen to “sit down and shut up.”

Chen handed out a list of “concerns” and “suggestion” about the plan that HMG-CN confirmed was drafted after input with former Cerritos Mayor and relator Grace Hu, current Cerritos Councilman Bruce Barrows, and former controversial ABC School Board members Cecy Groom and Dixie Primosch and Matt Kauble who is a local Republican Party activist.

One Artesia resident who did not want to be identified said, “that list that Chen handed out was nothing more than talking points from the local Republican party leaders, every speaker who came up against the measure basically said what Chen handed out.”

Also speaking in favor of the Master Plan was incoming Gahr High School Student Body President Lani LaCroix.

“Our classrooms are too cramped, and we don’t have modern equipment at Gahr so it is hard for our students to show our true potential. I am going to be ASB President and I am here to support the Master Plan and to make sure that all of our students excel. Sometimes we need to shut off our air conditioning because we don’t have enough electrical power to run our lights at the same time, this needs to resolve once and for all,” said LaCroix.

ABC School Board Vice President Lynda Johnson spoke for more than 40 minutes during the heated meeting on Tuesday night.  Randy Economy Photo

ABC School Board Vice President Lynda Johnson spoke for more than 40 minutes during the heated meeting on Tuesday night. Randy Economy Photo

Johnson Lashes Out

It was past 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, ABC School Members were still meeting, and tempers were flaring.

However, several hours earlier, Board Vice President Johnson took nearly 40 minutes to pepper questions to school administrators and consultants about the plan that she ultimately voted against.

Johnson told HMG-CN on Wednesday afternoon that she “had a lot of questions about cost expenses, and other concerns, and yes it was a very long night.”

Johnson said that she was “not happy” with the district “for not being transparent with the community” about the details of the master plan.

“We needed to reach out to the community and public better,” Johnson said.

“Look,  we have architects looking into the matter and planners and engineers and when you don’t get community support for a master plan you won’t get support for the bond,” Johnson said.

Johnson also defended her participation with Chen, Hu, Groom, Primosch, and Yoo at a private meeting where details of the master plan were openly discussed using paperwork that was not public records at the time.

“We all have the right to do what we believe is the best in being able to represent the community and to hear different points of view, and this particular meeting was no exception,” Johnson said.

Johnson did not indicate if she would be supporting or opposing the bond.   “We all need to hear from the community about the bond, and everyone needs to be heard,” she concluded.

  • Smitty says:

    Financing general maintenance is a bad idea, you have the cost of maintenance, plus debt service plus all the fees on top, better to bite the bullet and just maintain the schools with a sales tax increase and no new debt..

  • M c M a h o n says:

    ABC —-Votes : 2nd Mello Roos Bond Property Tax

    1997 ABC Bond, was first Mello Ross, this will be 2nd of 4 bonds, to get close to the $700K Bond Money Needed. 5th Bond was for CJC. How many bonds can the ABC economy support?

    RECORD OF NOTICE, MCMAHON FAMILY is neither for the school bond nor the pseudo ABC master plan.

    Frail master plan does not have enough safety nets, and was flawed from conception planning. Where is the ABC transparency and trustee public due diligence? No input from the residents, which will be bank accounts for Mello Roos.

    In addition, district taxpayers are only approximately 50% payment completion with first school bond passed in 1997, now if this Nov 2014 bond passes, district taxpayers will have an overlay school bond, (2 Mello Roos) which will drag on for another 30+ approximate years. Many district dwellings will be paying aprox $1K per yr. in addition to states 1% sales tax.

    DR Seiu, superintendent, stated she emailed all of her list. I never got an email, as we share emails and phone conversation w/ her and (ret.)Dr. Smutts

    Cerritos is largest stake holder of district, home to approximately home to:
    • 47% seniors,
    • Residents who are gone through loan modifications,
    • >6% unemployed,
    • Properties still w/ under water loans.
    • Average sales value $550K.
    • 15% Residents are Orig property Owners ( Corelogic)
    • >25% Properties are rentals (tenants)

    Said prop. Sandwich bond, will only drive more residents to move away from the city of Cerritos. In addition, CCC has proposed:
    1. Utility tax,
    2. Sheriff tax,
    3. Street tree tax,
    4. Up-dates to street light pole tax,
    5. City Public Works tax or bond.
    6. Water Rate increase ( Proxy Voting by USPO)
    7. Plus a possible utility tax ( Water, Gar, electric and Phone)
    8. 90703 already has trash can utility tax.
    9. Poss statewide water bond tax.
    10. LACO 60’s Salt Water Detox Bond?

    Cerritos tax bill has way too many additional taxes, compared to the one (1%) percent statewide tax. Cerritos is too hot top heavy with employee staffers and too much Disneyland type of entertainment 12 months of the year. Cerritos stopped the Rose Parade entry, must abort many other programs in order to balance budget.

    Cerritos Overnight parking Ordinance cost the city aprox $.5, bleeding the budget. Sky Nite Helicopter : aprox $290K.

    7/8/2014 ( Verizon Cable #29, 6pm-1am) Majority of the attendees to the school master plan, and proposed bond, 99% were employed by the ABC school board, which is conflict of interest, as majority commute in to district employment.

    PDF takes aprox 15 min to download w/ FIOS

    ………..Jay Gray, ( Ret. Candidate) lifetime resident stated, ((STOP)): CCPA, Magnolia Power Plant, Lifetime CCC Benefits and travel; INORDER to dead- end new city bonds or taxes. Fyi: Jay was battered by CCC Barrows at council chambers foyers……..

    Residents who spoke, who said no, no, no:

    • Paddleford Fam.,
    • Jay Gray,
    • Ben Ao, (Ret. United HOA)
    • Dixie, P
    • R. Kakar.
    • Ret. District electee, said lack of transparency, so bond needs much good luck to pass!
    • Cer Mayor Pro Tem, Carol Chen.
    • Cer. commissioner of Cho, PHD

    Proposed Master Plan, has a wish list totaling almost $750M, legally, ABC school board can pass a school bond of approximately $250M/ 30 yr term.
    My word, district will want another bond shortly, to make up the windfall between $750K-$250K!!

    Most home owners agree, all properties every once in awhile need updating, but you cannot keep going to the homeowner to finance deferred district maintenance, when are 70-80’s homes need a lot of maintenance, because our Cerritos housing stock also is old and post recession era., most of them have not been retro-fitted to current codes. Residents are just trying to refurbish old cars from great recession.

    Discussed by the ABC trustees, mentioned that the master plan was not introduced to the public tell July 4th, which is a lie, as on July 2nd, (2) of the trustees, made the master plan public, behind closed doors of a private Cerritos mayor pro temp meeting. Backdoor deal, when pertinent information goes out to the public, before the unveiling date.

    All in all sad, the master plan is not a good precise plan, therefore, not supporting.

    Please join me in supporting No on the school bond.

    During this long meeting, many reference remarks were made about past meetings pertaining to trustee input on the Master Plan, etc. during 2013-2014. Are there any archived videos on line, or can we rent video of such feeds? If done of these are avail, can the district hold some video nights, (re-runs) so the community & press can review. Lastly, are there any books, on-line feeds the public can learn about common core. Recently read, some states are pulling out from common core approach, so we ( the public) needs to know more about common core concepts, as seems like the master plan is based on new intro of common core education..


    Facebook Pages??_________
    Twitter Accounts??________
    Any Common Core Links___

  • M c M a h o n says:


    Vacated campus must be first offered to Charters Schools. Is this bad or great idea to work away from Mello Roos Bonds?

    Can anyone tell me about the distribution of the 1997 ABC Mello Roos Bond? City nor the district was not on line or min. computers then.

  • Council of Thieves says:

    Lynda Johnson and Carol Chen appeared very much rehearsed and on the same page.

    Both it seemed care nothing about the school district or the the kids. Both disagreed with the ‘process’ and as a result didn’t want the master plan or the bond. A bunch of phony B.S. spewing from both officials.

    Both attempted to CONTROL the meeting. One from the board’s side and one from the public comments platform.

    The easy part is to call a secret meeting and then to point to any potential holes in the plan. Did you really need a secret meeting of past and present government officials to find holes?

    If either of these two really wanted the district and our students to succeed they would have announced an alternative funding plan. Not one person opposed to to the master plan came forward with a real funding plan. Not one…

    With all the access Johnson and Chen have to a wealth of professionals, from a variety of fields, wouldn’t your secret meeting have been more productive if you would have used the time to come up with a viable alternative funding plan?

    Let us all ask one question.

    Why did neither Johnson or Chen present an alternative funding plan?

    My guess is that neither one of them gave 30 seconds to the thought of actually putting one together. They seemed only to care about derailing the master plan and bond vote, with no real thought to the students.

    We’ve seen it before. With individuals like these it always comes down to power, prestige, and personal gain.

    Put the bond on the ballot and let the district residents decide. In the mean time, instead of bashing the process or the bond give us a strong realistic alternative.

    • M c M a h o n says:

      “Plenty to Bash on the Bond”:

      ——–Comments on Mello Roos School Bond——-

      1. 1997 School Mello Roos Bond- still ongoing in payments by taxpayers.

      2. Cerritos Junior College Mello Roos Bond.

      3. Trash Collection Tax

      4. Street Light Tax

      5. 2014 School Mello Roos Bond.

      6. 2014 Statewide School Bond Mello Roos Tax.

      7. 2014 Statewide Water Bond Mello Roos Tax.

      8. 9-10% Sales Tax in LA/OC.

      Questions for all voter’s on the (2014) Prop 39 School Bond / aka Mello Roos tax. There is no safety nets built into this proposition, in order to guarantee, needs of the students will be met, especially technology. Bond could be drained to cure maintenance menopause upgrades and never address the needs of the students for today+ tomorrow standards!

      This is a very loose written proposition school bond, derived from wish list of A/Z Items, from the master plan rendering. No guarantee, school board trustees will address all items and/or run short part way through. Taxpayers could get slammed w/ another, another, another, another Mello Roos Bond tax, after this bond tax runs dry.

      Voters, Google search most school bonds, most are drafted to be specific bonds:

      1. Technology bond;
      2. Energy efficient bond; ( Solar Power)
      3. Deferred Maintenance Bond;
      4. Construction bond;
      5. Equipment bond.
      6. Book Bond.
      7. Roof-HVAC Bond.

      If the school wants to propose a bond which is specific to the needs of the children, well, this bond is poorly written. Teachers and students complain about lack of technology. Bond presented, technology maybe never addressed, as the bond if passed, could run broke, part way through the A- Z wish-list from the ACCEPTED 2014 Master Plan.

      Ex: City of Irvine is proposing only a technology Bond or Mello Roos Tax, with substantial time limitations, much shorter compared to our district.

      Nothing in neither the Master Plan, nor the 2014 Mello Roos Bond addresses the Trades in our schools. Most of the wish list is around technology and not equally dispersed by the trades for our community.

      Since the district has new boundary lines/districts, prudent a new 7/11 committee, assess all school compounds again, completed prior to even going out to bond measure. Poss. surplus district property or consolidation of school properties which could offset a bond Mello Roos Tax.

      Said proposed 2014 Bond from conception, is too premature and not in the best interest of neither the voters, nor students. Real Estate Data presented to the board, creates a baseline figure, property values: $290K. Parents complain about conditions of the school, I asked the parents, most of the neighborhoods in the district are infected with urban menopause:
      • Both from the city side and dwellings.
      • Cerritos code enforcement is writing >40,000 citations per yr, because city is not aging well. Resident are broke to clean and repair homes.
      • Cerritos has >$2M public works repairs on hold.
      • Aprox $500+ for Mello Roos tax, could be used to energy retrofit personal dwellings.

      Why should the tax payers spend more money on the school, when they don’t even have the money to spend on personal residential deferred maintenance items? Let’s face it, diversity in property ownership in the district, are not weathering well for any of the 7 cities in the district. All 7 cities, housing is worn out, but the residents are driving their wealth in cars!!

      1. Create Friends or Trust account, so district can inherit $.
      2. Allow out business franchise rites for advertising on campus.
      3. Beg Cerritos to temporary eliminate: over night parking, CCCP, Helicopter, Magnolia Power Plant subsidization, Monthly Disneyland type of entertainment, so the surplus funds could be used for school solarization and improved staging of autos or horse/buggy?
      4. Campus consolidation.
      5. Remove all rental facilities, such as mobiles/modules.
      6. Downsize Corporate Center.
      7. Close Whitney HS and Tracey HS; and incorporate 2 HS in to the remaining 3 HS.
      8. Memorial donated fixtures.
      9. Merge sections of the education w/ surrounding districts.
      10. Soft gambling at designated campuses at night and weekends, to derive incomes.
      11. Sell agriculture and horticulture from vacant Hort plots on CHS campus.
      12. Allow HS students to work for credit on campus and retiree out more staff employees.
      13. Induce more televised educational programs, to eliminate teachers in classroom.
      14. Import hollywood celebrities as guest speakers, as my HS did this for my 4 yrs and worked well for more direct hands on experience, at no cost to district.
      15. Rent our sections of the playgrounds for public over night and weekend RV camp sites.
      16. Work more w/ Goodwill Stores collaborate staffers.
      17. Why cant student work for credit for painting and gardening?
      18. Summer youth shared employment w/ cities to earn credits for early graduation.
      19. District kitchen could sell box dinners to go, using volunteer help; compared to many churches in the areas.

  • arthur says:

    If the $650M plan is so good, why not just do a parcel tax so senior citizens can opt out?

    $250M bond should be chopped up into two or three elections. Let’s see how the district is spending our tax dollars first.

  • arthur says:

    If the $650M plan is so good, why not just do a parcel tax so senior citizens can opt out?

    $250M bond should be chopped up into two or three elections. Let’s see how the district is spending our tax dollars first.

  • arthur says:

    If the $650M plan is so good, why not just do a parcel tax so senior citizens can opt out?

    $250M bond should be chopped up into two or three elections. Let’s see how the district is spending our tax dollars first.

    • M c M a h o n says:

      —-Questions non-answered by ABC Trustees———

      Question #1-
      Can the trustees identify the carrier over to this 2014 Master Plan, from prior Master Plans?
      Adopted 2014 Master Plan, there is no reference to the past master plans, which were/ were not completed from generated sales from the following:

      • Sunshine Park sale,
      • Whitney sale to Cerritos Park East,
      • Whitney Sale to Warmington developers,
      • 1997 Mello Roos Bond

      Question #2-
      CFO stated ABC district loses approximately 10% students annually, what percent of ABC school district, imports students from outside of the district, hence how much of the district will be suffering from this bond, allowing students to enter into the district, which will never pay towards financing of this 2014 Mello Roos bond?

      Question #3-
      How much of this bond will go to renewable energy, such as Solar energy and drought landscaping, since ABC is the largest consumer of water in the basin? Big ticket item for all campuses is renewing parking, but no mention of permeable hard surfacing in said parking staging?

      Question #4-
      What percentage of this bond will be used for:
      • Deferred maintenance.
      • New technology.
      • Internal changes For Common-Core introduction.

      Question #5-
      What is a spreadsheet analysis data derived from of the 1997 Mello Roos bond, combined with today’s 2014 Mello Roos bond?

      Question # 6-
      Can a Property Owner pre-pay off the 1997 Mellos Roos Bond plus 2014 Mello Roos Bond in full, without interest?

      Question #7-
      Bulk of revenue from 2014 Mello Roos Bond will be generated from Cerritos Dwellings and Business. What (%) of the revenue stream will be used in Cerritos Campuses?

      Question #8-
      District has 2 Corporate Office compounds. What (%) of the district shares the new Corporate West Offices? The orig. Corporate Office has what (%) of vacant office space now? What plans do the trustees have to generate income from the non-used office space?

      Question #9-
      Since the district has new drawn boundaries/trustees, when will the next (7/11) review asset Mgmt. of the demographic within the district?

      Question #10-
      CFO illustrated data from the LA cities which have Mello Roos School Bonds. ABC was one of the lowest city with the least amount of Bond Debt, but high API national scores. No reference was made how the existing bonds aided the ADI test score or the property values per sq ft. in all of the other cities which have implemented bonds?

  • Where are the Ethics? says:

    Carol Chen travels all over the country, all over the world, and eats expensive meals using tax payer funds. Not once has she publicly questioned or complained about where those tax dollars are coming from.

    Now that the ABC school district wants to tax her business properties to raise money for the kids of Cerritos she has a problem with taxes.

    Maybe if this bond were funding Ms. Chen’s travel and meals she would be a happy, smiling, greedy….

  • M c M a h o n says:

    Memo: To the ABC Community,

    ABC teachers union, circulating emails, be sure that all teachers arrive to bond meeting, early, to tag all the chairs, in order to create teacher placement. Teachers and students will have priority placement, and hog the floor, repeat of 7/8/2014. There’ll be no room for residences in district to vent on BOND/MELLO ROOS.


    Emails floating around, referencing the bankruptcy of bonds markets: San Bernardino and Stockton, as many are speculating, the city of Cerritos may have to file bankruptcy in order to rework the accounting on the loss of the RDA funding. Bond measure / Mello Roos proposed by the school district may be trumped by bankruptcy too.


    To the ABC Community:

    ABC Unified School District believes that supporting academic programs and expanding, upgrading, repairing and better equipping the educational facilities within the District are required to enable the District to maintain its outstanding student achievement. We invite you to come or tune in to the Board Meeting held at 16700 Norwalk Blvd, Cerritos on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 7PM. The Board will hold a public hearing regarding a school bond election in November and discuss a resolution for the bond measure.

    The July 15th Board Agenda will be available on the District’s Website on Friday, July 11, 2014 for the public to view. Please feel free to share this information with all those interested.

    Thank you very much.

    Dr. Mary Sieu



    January 15, 2014 – Special Session- Facilities Needs Assessment and Technology Needs

    February 4, 2014 – Contract with Dale Scott & Co. to provide survey research services and financial advisory/bond services

    March 4, 2014 – Feasibility Study Presentation by Mark Ferrell of Dale Scott & Co.

    March 18, 2014 – Contract with Flewelling & Moody to develop a district-wide Facilities Master Plan

    March – June, 2014 – Needs assessment and input meetings with all school teams representing parents, teachers, administrators, support staff and community members (no videos)

    April 1, 2014 – Contract with George K. Baum to provide bond underwriting services should bond measure pass

    April 1, 2014 – Contract with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to provide bond counsel services, should bond measure pass

    June 20, 2014 – Board receives the Draft Facilities Master Plan (no video)

    June 24, 2014 – Draft Facilities Master Plan Presentation with Public Input/Comments

    July 3, 2014 – Draft Facilities Master Plan available on website

    July 8, 2014 – Facilities Master Plan Presentation with Public Input/Comments