Even though local voters said three times in the last decade that they wanted to keep the school districts they had, in 1970-71 the governing boards of the Newhall School District, Saugus Union School District and Sulphur Springs Union School District pursued a plan that would have had the effect of giving them back their junior and senior high school students.
Unification — forming a K-12 (in some cases K-14) school district, or technically, withdrawing from a high school district — is generally a prerogative of elementary school districts, but it requires an OK from the State Board of Education and local voter approval. (The voting public said "yes" to creating the Santa Clarita Union High School District, later renamed for cowboy actor William S. Hart, by a margin of 1,184 to 7 — yes, 7 — in 1945.)
Voters rejected one-valley, one-school district plans in 1960, 1965 and 1967. So in 1970-71, the Newhall, Saugus and Sulphur Springs school boards agreed to plan that would have created not one but three unified school districts. All five existing districts (Hart, Newhall, Saugus, Sulphur Springs and Castaic) would be eliminated and three new K-12 districts would take their place, with boundaries radiating out from the valley's three major population centers – Newhall, Saugus and Canyon Country (Sulphur Springs). The plan also called for a valley-wide property tax assessment to "equalize educational opportunity for all the pupils."
Naturally, the Hart District opposed the plan. Politically, it would have eliminated the Hart board and empowered the Newhall, Saugus and Sulphur Springs boards. Hart wanted one single unified district covering the entire valley, and it was ready and willing to take the lead. (Note that in the years before 1987 cityhood, the Hart School Board was the big political game in town.)
The Castaic Union School District's governing board also opposed the three-district plan. Castaic would have been folded into one or more of the other districts, and as the Castaic school board stated in its opposition argument, it feared that "direct local control will be diluted if not virtually eliminated."
The Santa Clarita Valley was growing. Maybe not as steadily as the school districts thought (their population projection for 1990 proved to be way off), but it was growing. As noted in the Newhall-Saugus-Sulphur Springs petition to the State Board, the valley's population doubled from 1960 to 1967. But it wasn't growing in Castaic. It was growing in Saugus, where Rancho Santa Clarita (aka Bonelli tract) had started in 1947, and in Canyon Country, where North Oaks started in 1963, and in the new town of Valencia (Newhall District), where the first homes opened in 1967.
Slower growth in Castaic meant less money was coming in for school facility construction and modernization than in the other districts. Castaic's board wanted one unified district for the whole valley "for the next five or six years," then two districts and at some point in the future, four — perhaps knowing that growth in Castaic would one day come.
Documents included here:
- Newhall, Saugus, Sulphur Springs arguments (in favor) to the State Board of Education, n.d.
- Castaic Union School District's arguments in opposition, dated Oct. 5, 1971.
- Hart District resolution in opposition, dated Sept. 14, 1970.
- Arguments in favor of unification and an area-wide tax, n.d.
LW3007: Estate of Connie Worden-Roberts. Download individual pages and pdf here