Volunteer committee oversees school bond spending

Volunteer committee oversees school bond spending
A portion of the bond money is to replace old school buses.
A portion of the bond money is to replace old school buses.

LAWTON, Okla._Have you ever wondered how Lawton Public Schools spends bond money? A volunteer committee has been put together to keep track of spending.

A $30 million bond issue was approved by voters in 2014, which provided money for repair projects at several sites, including replacing a leaky roof at MacArthur Middle School. A volunteer committee of fellow taxpayers keeps track of each project and holds the elected officials on the school board accountable.

Repairs to MacArthur Middle School's roof started last week, and the expectation is it will be ready for the upcoming school year. The estimated cost to repair the roof is about $1.35 million dollars. These costly projects are the reason there is a committee whose sole responsibility is making sure the money is in the right place.

The Lawton Public Schools Board is working hand-in-hand with the Bond Oversight Committee to make sure the 2014 school bond is being allocated the way it was intended. Committee co-chair Willie Smith says the partnership can best be simplified with an acronym.

"TIP. They have been very transparent with the committee. They have been inclusive, they have invited us to add comments and suggestions and the 'P' stands for productive. As you can see with the work they are doing right now. So, it's been outstanding," Smith explained.

Ed Petersen, the other co-chair of the committee, says a lot of the controversy comes with projects that are worked on later in the time frame. They say the improvements can't be seen now, and it gives the impression to some that it will never be done. He believes this committee operates under the premise of full disclosure.

"I've been very pleased with Dr. Deighan's approach to this and I think the community should be very pleased as well. We're not just a bunch of people meeting behind closed doors, it's very transparent," Peterson said.

Smith says this can be a great building block for trust to be restored, which is why he is a part of it.

"Bond both the school system as well as the community together, and I thought it would enhance the relationship. So, that was one of my reasons for joining. I believe education is important," Smith said.

Since the committee is completely volunteer based, they have no power to accept or deny projects. At the end of their meetings, they give a checkmark to state either everything is going as planned, or the provisions are not being met.

The committee expects to have another meeting sometime in August. For more information, contact the LPS superintendent's office at 580-357-6900.