When Mike Noll was a real estate salesman in the Long Beach area, one of the first questions prospective buyers would ask was, "How are the schools?" That question is still posed to him today, because he serves as vice chair of the Measure K Citizens' Oversight Committee of the Long Beach Unified School District.
A Signal Hill city councilmember for more than 20 years and lifelong resident of Long Beach and Signal Hill, Noll has long had both a professional and personal stake in local public schools. That's why he volunteered to serve two terms on the unpaid committee that represents the public's interest in seeing that Measure K funds are spent properly.
The committee is made up of seven individuals appointed by the Board of Education. As an independent committee, the COC is charged with reviewing Measure K expenditures, developing an annual report to the Board of Education on the progress of projects, and keeping constituents informed.
The COC meets up to six times a year, and its members are eligible to serve no more than two consecutive two-year terms.
Each committee member represents a specific group. In Noll's case, it's the business community. He said he has always been fascinated by budgets, so he took special interest in learning about how school building and renovation budgets would be allocated.
"Budgets are the roadmap to the future. With a $1.2 billion bond, we were overwhelmed at first with the numbers," Noll said. "But we've learned how to understand budgets and to ask the right questions."
"I'm proud of what Measure K has accomplished in a few short years," he added. "The new Nelson Academy in Signal Hill is providing great opportunities technologically and inspiring students and teachers alike."
Like Noll, Karen Hilburn, committee chair, was raised in Long Beach. In addition, she spent 41 years as an employee of the school district, including as principal of Polytechnic High and as director of Alternative Education and Student Support Services.
Now retired, she is the COC member who represents senior citizens. She said her constituents are most concerned about the quality of schools and that Measure K funds are well-spent.
"People ask me all the time why we are building new schools when enrollment is declining," Hilburn said. "Few people understand how outdated some of our school facilities are and how enrollment patterns are changing."
As chair, she leads meetings and presents the committee's annual report to the Board of Education. The reports have confirmed that Measure K funds have been used wisely and appropriately.
"It's been a delightful experience to learn more about school building and how facility plans come together," she said. "The Measure K staff has been extremely helpful and cooperative in providing all the information we need."
Other members of the committee are Heather Morrison, representing PTAs; Kristine Hammond, representing parents; Maria Williams-Slaughter, representing a taxpayer group; and Dede Rossi and Anna Ulaszewski, representing the community-at-large.