[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Reopening Acton School | 07-11-2017
Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
July 23
1982 - Vic Morrow & two child actors killed in helicopter crash at Indian Dunes during filming of "Twilight Zone: The Movie" [story]

Commentary by Max S. Duran
| Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017

For those who don’t know me, my name is Max Duran. I once held the position of trustee for the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District (AADUSD). Prior to that, I was a senior project manager, responsible for the construction of new schools and the modernization of existing schools for the Los Angeles Unified School District. I also held the position of school facilities planner and at one time I was a certified Division of State Architect (DSA) construction inspector.

After my retirement, I consulted with many school districts wishing to navigate the Department of Education’s cumbersome regulations on school construction. Until recently, I was a member of the county’s Facilities Network Committee.

Recently, the Agua Dulce-Acton Country Journal reported that the AADUSD board of trustees was attempting to reopen Acton Elementary. The article gave the impression that our school district was being hampered by DSA.

On the surface, one can make a case against DSA, but in reality, the role of DSA is to insure that all school districts provide students, teachers and to a lesser degree, parents, with a safe environment while at a publicly funded school.

During my tenure with the AADUSD, there were occasions when the district sought the easy way out and bypassed DSA’s inspection on several projects. It was always a challenge to encourage others to see the benefits of installing items per code. In the long run, it became easier and cheaper to label me as an obstructionist.

At one point, the board had considered reopening Acton Elementary School. As a former school facilities planner, I volunteered to conduct a survey of the school.

Ron Byrd and I visited the entire campus, including the outside spaces. We compiled a comprehensive report that modernized the school, which included making the site American with Disabilities Act compliant, repair or replacement of HVAC units, boiler and water heater upgrades. The report included a cost estimate and a timeline for completion.

At the end of my term, the new board had commissioned a consultant to perform the same task. We submitted our report to the consultant and the district superintendent, along with a cost estimate and photos. We never saw the consultant’s report, but I was told the school district paid $50,000. Our report had been done pro bono. Both reports went dormant and no action was ever taken.

A short time later, the board purchased several portable classrooms “on the cheap” and was applauded for its effort.

I bring up this story to remind the reader that all portables are not alike. During the class size reduction program, the California Department of Education allowed districts to place K-3 students in classrooms that were less than the traditional 960 square feet in size. Students enrolled in this program were loaded into classrooms of 20 students (or fewer) to 1 teacher. At the time, the loading standards (number of students housed in a classroom) were 35 square feet per student. Simple math tells us that for 20 students, times 35 square feet per student, a classroom size could be as small as 700 square feet.

At the time of the board’s purchase, the state had terminated this program due to lack of funding, and many districts were unloading portables. Our board acquired several buildings and placed them at Vasquez High.

Just before that school reopened, Vasquez held an open house. I visited the school and saw 30 desks crammed inside these classrooms (remember, the rule was 20 to 1 for K-3 students). Immediately, I wrote a letter to the then-superintendent, informing him of this fire- and life-safety hazard.

My warning fell on deaf ears. I never received a response. The students were placed inside these classrooms like sardines. I shudder to think of what could have happened if there had been a fire or earthquake.

The Country Journal has reported that the school board is reopening Acton School. The article quoted Mr. Tegtmeyer of TDM Architects Inc.: “DSA wants one project for all the required work. We (on the contrary) want to do the work in phases so (we) can take advantage of DSA guidelines – in order to break it down to make it more manageable so that we don’t need upgrading disabilities work when just fixing air conditioning.”

If the contract involved “fixing” air conditioning units, then this project might be exempt, assuming the new units weighed the same or less; otherwise the roof framing would have to be recalculated by a structural engineer.

DSA spells out a list of projects that are exempt from DSA’s approval; repairing air-conditioning units is one of them. A list of exempt projects can be found in DSA’s IR A-10.

But one need only do a “drive by” down Crown Valley Road to see the extent of the work being done. The board has removed from use one of the most valuable classrooms of this school: the kindergarten classroom. Remember, this classroom is a whopping 1,950 square feet. It contains a boys’ and girls’ restroom, one or two wash-sinks, extra cabinetry and a large storage room for supplies. No other classroom has its own separate playground space. The only other classroom that compares itself in cost would be a special education classroom which could include a tub and shower.

Why is this important information? Because the board approved the transformation of the kindergarten, along with its playground space and converted into office space and parking lot. All of this for the sake of a new board room – thereby devaluating the cost of that school. Also, had the town sought to declare Acton school a “historic site,” this modernization project just negated that possibility.

While many costs associated with this modernization project remain hidden from public view, it has been estimated the total cost of the project (excluding ADA requirements, because there aren’t any) exceeded $2 million – a far cry from fixing a few air conditioners. It’s no wonder DSA wants to review the total scope of work.

Also, the district’s architect has ignored complying with the ADA regulation. This failure could result in penalties being levied against the district, or civil lawsuits against individual board members. As a handicapped person, I appreciate the value of facilities with the ease to access to my destination.

Another observation was that “Acton currently has an old fire alarm system that works, but DSA want an automatic system.” And why not? Schools in California with new or modernized project exceeding $200,000 are required to have both automatic sprinklers and a fire alarm system that are connected to a supervising station.

In years past, a neighbor or a passerby would call the Fire Department if they heard the water gong or the fire horn activated at the school. Now, any fire alarm or sprinkler activation requires an automatic transmission to a remote supervising station, thereby notifying the Fire Station.

The comment was made that “the delay is now from DSA. Someone turned in the district.” Comments like that are inflammatory. All it does is ratchet up the rhetoric and place the district in an adversarial role with DSA.

Mr. Tegtmeyer reminds the board that the former inspector died and that another inspector would need to come on board and “start again,” whatever that means. Mr. Tegtmeyer should know that during the course of a project, a DSA inspector will often go on vacation, become ill or be reassigned. Most inspectors adapt to these circumstances. As a former inspector, I would mark up my set of working drawings with notes indicating the progress made or annotate any change orders that occurred during the course of the project. Most new inspectors would look at my drawings and familiarize themselves quickly with the project.

Finally, another board member played the “guilt card” by stating: “It’s the parents, teachers and students who will pay. The additional money is robbed from the classroom to pay for fees to the state and for contractors.” Comments like that attempt to blame others for their lack of planning.

In their attempt to usurp DSA’s role, the school board fragmented the project in order to deceive DSA. The board forgot that there are well over 1,050 school districts in this state, and all too often, many of them try to take the easy approach.

Instead, the board should learn to plan properly before committing to venture into a project. Otherwise the change orders alone will eat up any savings.


Max S. Duran is an Acton resident.


Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. Ken Pfalzgraf Board Candidate

  2. Janet Klein Janet Klein says:

    Just thought you should know what is happening with your school district@Cheryl Klein

  3. “Taking the easy way out” means more money for the administrators at the DO, doesn’t it?

  4. Ken Pfalzgraf says:

    As we see in Max’s piece, this is about trying to fix something that’s been going on for a decade. Without going into detail, the district is certainly on a compliace track with DSA now, with Vasquez High School being a recent example of a fully permitted, inspected and signed off project. There’s a bit on this issue and Max’s editorial starting at the 1 minute mark of this Youtube video. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8yc8hvdlAwk

  5. Mike Rowe Mike Rowe says:

    That’s good old AADUSD for you. Always wasting money and time.

  6. Dawna Kennedy says:

    The board has been corrupt and self serving for many years. Although many residents such as myself have tried to fight for what’s right, we really lack the means and knowledge necessary to sway the vote. How can we get organized and make a concerted effort toward change?

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Related Content
Thursday, Jul 20, 2017
Much of the dramatic decline of the yellow-billed cuckoo in California has been directly attributed to breeding habitat loss and degradation from lands being converted to agricultural and other urban uses.
Wednesday, Jul 19, 2017
The Newhall Ranch project will create nearly 74,000 permanent jobs within the region and an estimated 130,000 construction jobs over the decades it will take to build the project, and it will provide a variety of housing types from apartments and starter homes to places to raise a family, from affordable housing to executive housing.
Friday, Jul 14, 2017
Medicare covers a variety of heath care services that you can get in the comfort and privacy of your home. These include intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology services, and occupational therapy.
Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017
In their attempt to usurp the Division of State Architect's role in the reopening of Acton School, the Acton-Agua Dulce school board has exposed itself to possible penalties being levied against the district, or civil lawsuits against individual board members.
Sunday, Jul 9, 2017
Python hunters work in pairs. One is the puller and one is the “hole guy.” The hole guy crawls into the hole to face the python head-on. When he’s bitten and the snake is holding on tight, the puller pulls out the hole guy, and the snake comes out with him.
Wednesday, Jul 5, 2017
As the temperatures go up this week, a great way to cool off is to head to one of the City’s six pools, says Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1982 - Vic Morrow & two child actors killed in helicopter crash at Indian Dunes during filming of "Twilight Zone: The Movie" [story]
Multiple award-winning songwriter, singer and actor Kris Kristofferson is scheduled to appear at the new Canyon Club Santa Clarita at Westfield Valencia Town Center Mall on Thursday night, January 4, 2018.
January 4: Kris Kristofferson at Canyon Santa Clarita
2000 - Historic Larinan house in Pico Canyon burns down [story]
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, two children are still in critical condition after yesterday's rollover crash. Plus, deputies arrested an underage DUI suspect whose vehicle smashed into a traffic signal after a collision in Canyon Country. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Friday, July 21, 2017
A second child has died and two other children are in critical condition after a rollover crash on the 14 freeway near Acton Thursday morning killed an infant, CHP officials said.
Second Child Dies, 2 Still Critical after Acton Crash
World-renowned artist John Moffitt will headline the ARTree's Speaker Series with a talk at The MAIN on Main Street in Old Town Newhall on Thursday, July 27 starting at 7 p.m.
July 27: John Moffitt Headlines ARTree Speaker Series
Registration is now open for the ARTree Community Arts Center's fall children's art sampler class, which begins September 22 at the center in Newhall.
July 25: Fall ARTree Children’s Art Class Registration Opens
The 21st annual "Heart of the West" fundraiser for the non-profit Carousel Ranch horse therapy program for children will take place at the ranch on Saturday, August 26 starting at 6 p.m.
August 26: ‘Heart of the West’ to Benefit Carousel Ranch
The California State Transportation Agency and the Department of Transportation today announced the fast tracking of “fix it first” construction work and increased road repairs across the state.
State Transportation Leaders Expedite Millions in SB 1 Road Repairs
Registration has begun for the fall 2017 semester at College of the Canyons, which offers more than 1,900 class sections in a wide range of academic subjects and career education disciplines.
COC Fall 2017 Registration Under Way
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has been denied bond pending the appeal of his conviction for obstructing a federal investigation into county jails.
Ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca Denied Bond Ahead of Conviction Appeal
The number of reported Valley Fever infections in Los Angeles County increased by 37 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to a news release from the county Department of Public Health.
Valley Fever Cases Up 37 Percent in L.A. County
A multi-vehicle collision in Canyon Country led deputies to arrest an underage DUI suspect who also crashed into a traffic signal around 5:30 a.m. Friday.
20-Year-Old Arrested on Suspicion of DUI After Canyon Country Crash
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Mary Alice Monroe will guest at an author event at Barnes & Noble in Valencia on Monday, July 31, at 7 p.m.
July 31: Best-Selling Author Mary Alice Monroe at Barnes & Noble
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-San Fernando Valley) blasted SoCalGas for weak safety standards as the company resumes injections of natural gas into the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility adjacent to the Santa Clarita Valley.
Sherman Rips SoCalGas for Weak Safety Standards at Aliso Canyon
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the best record in major league baseball, had their 11-game winning streak snapped by the Atlanta Braves 6-3 at Dodger Stadium Thursday night in the first game of a 10-game homestand.
Red-Hot Dodgers Drop First Contest in 10-Game Homestand
World-traveled rock-R&B-funk band Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps returns to headline the free Valencia Jazz & Blues concert on the street outside the Hyatt Regency Valencia tonight starting at 7 p.m.
July 21: Teresa James & Rhythm Tramps at Valencia Jazz & Blues
California voters would decide the future of legal sports betting in the Golden State under a constitutional amendment introduced Thursday by a state lawmaker.
California Lawmaker Backs Referendum on Legalizing Sports Betting
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station is urging SCV residents to be on the lookout for a suspect wanted in connection with a felony hit and run collision in Lancaster on Tuesday.
Wanted: Suspect in Felony Hit & Run
Mylz Jones and Roberto Ramos each went deep for the JetHawks, but the Lake Elsinore Storm hit three homers of their own and took the series opener 8-4 on Thursday night at The Hangar.
Jones, Ramos Homer in 8-4 Loss to Storm Thursday
California state officials have cleared the way for resumption at reduced capacity in the next few weeks of natural gas pumping into the underground Aliso Canyon facility
Aliso Canyon Gas Field to Reopen, But Fight Still On
Three children and one adult from Los Angeles were airlifted from the 14 freeway in Acton Thursday morning after a fatal solo-vehicle rollover crash.
Infant Killed, Four Injured in Early-Morning Acton Crash
Air quality will be unhealthy for sensitive individuals in the Santa Clarita Valley on Friday, according to an AQMD alert.
Updated: SCV Air Quality Unhealthy Friday
2009 - Castaic resident Gidget, the Taco Bell commercial Chihuahua, dies at 15 after major stroke [story]
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, a Los Angeles woman is one of four hurt in a fatal crash in Acton Thursday morning. Plus, several streets in the city will be impacted for road rehab through next Friday. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Thursday, July 20, 2017
The City of Santa Clarita is in need of volunteers for a pair of events taking place in August at the Aquatic Center, located at 20850 Centre Pointe Parkway. Space is still available for those wishing to assist at the Swim League Finals on August 5 and the LA84 Swim & Synchro Festival on August 12, 2017.
Volunteers Needed for Upcoming Aquatic Center Events
As Los Angeles County prepares for the procurement and manufacturing stage of its nationally-recognized Voting Systems Assessment Project (VSAP), Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan is focusing resources on election security.
County Prepares for Updated Voting System
Every summer, novice and veteran interpreters and interpreting students gather for one week to learn about professional development, and to participate in workshops that build their skills.
CSUN Student to Host Workshop for Interpreters
Residents in Santa Clarita can soon enroll in a number of specialized classes, recreational sports, youth programming and more for the fall season.
July 25: Start of Fall Seasons Online Registration
Castaic residents heard from county planners Wednesday at the Castaic Area Town Council meeting, with a focus on solutions for concerns about the Hillcrest Parkway landscape.
Castaic Residents Voice Concerns Over Hillcrest Parkway Maintenance
After being featured in the “KHTS Adopt a Pet” series last month, a then 10-week-old kitten named Faith has found her forever home. But before she can truly get her “happily ever after,” Faith needs surgery to correct a medical problem that is already causing damage to her eyes.
GoFundMe Page Started for Former ‘KHTS Adopt a Pet’ Kitten
From Aug. 5-9, this year's graduates from CalArts' Programs in Art, Art and Technology and Photography and Media present work in Clothing Optional at Night Gallery in Los Angeles, with an opening reception on Aug. 5.
Exhibit to Feature Works by Recent CalARTS’ Graduates
Join us at this month's breakfast for networking and an update by our State Senator Scott Wilk on the progress of water district consolidation and the impact his bill, SB 634, will have on the Santa Clarita Valley.
Aug. 9: Update on Water District Consolidation at Chamber Breakfast
California State University, Northridge and Southwestern Law School have joined forces to bring a clinic to the CSUN campus in fall 2017.
Legal Clinic For Undocumented Students Comes to CSUN This Fall
Sheriff’s Homicide detectives are investigating a dead body reported at Sierra Highway and Remsen street.
Possible Suicide in Newhall; Investigation Ongoing