The Front Lines
I have been on the WCCUSD Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee since June of 2010, the longest serving member in its history.
I have served three of those years as the Chair, longer than any Chair in the WCCUSD CBOC’s history. On June 10, 2016 I will term out.
I have seen and heard many things. Frankly, there have been many “what the….” moments.
I challenged the District to keep its promises and stop arm wrestling with the CBOC.
I insisted that they stop placing obstacles in our way. It is the task of the CBOC to actively review and report on Bond Program expenditures. That can not be done without cooperation from the District.
The CBOC serves as an important voice for the tax payers who approved $1.6 Billion in bond measures. This committee has made great strides and has become much more than the District’s cheerleading squad.
The End Game
I have been highly critical of the District and its management of the Bond Program, its lack of costs controls and lack of adherence to budgets. Promises were made to the voters that realistically can not be met. Many taxpayers who bear the burden of the Bonds may never realize a benefit for their schools, from those funds.
There was no plan that clearly defined where the program was, where it was going or how it would get there, what we termed, the “End Game”.
The CBOC asked the District for a plan, a strategy, because it seemed clear to us that finishing what was started could not be accomplished with the remaining bond funds.
In 2015 the District began to develop a New Facilities Master Plan, the first update since 2007.
It was not until 2013-2014 that the District, after coming under intense public and media scrutiny, followed by the defeat of Measure H, (the proposed seventh Bond Measure), and the scathing, 2015 Grand Jury Report, “A Case of Stymied Oversight”; that the District altered the way it conducted business.
In February 2014 when asked directly about budgets, then Associate Superintendent Bill Fay, stated that this District’s Bond Program was “scope-driven”, not “budget-driven”.
My jaw dropped, as did the jaws of many of the CBOC members. It was one of those “what the…” moments.
Add to the equation investigations by the SEC, the IRS and most recently, the Clay Investigation and clearly there is ample reason for skepticism.
New Facilities Master Plan
The New Facilities Master Plan, is seeking to define the “End Game”.
The Bond Program as a whole, has a total of $400M still available in Bond Authorization.
This ongoing effort has analyzed and evaluated various criteria to establish needs and priorities for the 21 “untouched” schools in the District.
The New Master Plan allocates $200M, to these schools, $200M was previously set aside for Pinole Valley High School.
Now communities are actively lobbying for their piece of what’s left of the Bond Program $1.6 Billion dollar pie.
As expected stakeholders are speaking out against the cost of building PVHS, because the perception is that the additional $33M needed for the completion of PVHS would reduce the $200M and negatively impact their schools.
This New Master Plan attempts to accomplish a lot, with very little, $200M for 21 schools.
Based on project estimates and the real needs of the 21 schools included in this Plan, which are many, it is Mission Impossible, in my opinion.
The reality is that the Master Plan’s $200M option (option A), “solving small scale issues” (the Band-Aid solution) is based on project estimates, today, now, not tomorrow or five years down the road. This option is the most favored according to the surveys conducted.
But, if we’ve learned anything it is that construction budgets and estimates are moving targets.
Option B would touch 4 schools, in a “combination of modernization and/or replacements”, for $200M, the total to do all the schools in this manner is estimated to be $687.2M.
Option C, to divide the funding between all the school families is TBD.
Option D, “continue replacements with revised standards”, would cover the 4 schools for $200M, or all of the schools for $947.1M.
Option E, “continue all schools replacements”, would cover 4 schools (subject to potential funding) for $200M, or “continue all schools replacements” for $1,041,900,000B.
So, if, the decision is to continue to replace all the “21” schools, the cost to accomplish that is projected to be $1 Billion.
Clearly this will require more Bonds. How do you think that is going to go over?
So what is Fair?
The feelings of frustration and anger are real. The community has been given little reason to believe or trust that the District can keep its promises and do what is necessary for their schools and their children. The District has failed many of its parents, students and taxpayers.
Nobody is happy.
And frankly, I share the anger and frustration of all the stakeholders and the taxpayers who have so generously approved these six bond measures with the expectation that improved facilities would translate to improved student achievement in a safe and clean learning environment.
Seems to me that we all are “victims”.
Pinole Valley High
On March 15, 2016 the bids for Pinole Valley High School were received.
The BOE’s approved budget (approved in September 2015) for PVHS, $181,900,000, has risen to approximately $222,000,000.
In 2010 the estimated budget was $120,000,000.
In 2013 the estimated budget was $181,900,000.
These increases were not the result of “extravagance” or “excess”, according to the Project Status Report, but rather the result of the changing economy and the moving target so inherent in construction.
Increase due to:
There has been an escalation of 3-5% per year
Extended Design and DSA approval process
Labor Force Availability
Volume of Bay Area Projects bidding and under construction
Impacts of downward market forces over the last 4-5 years on available contracting communities
Size site and access affecting contractor logistics (onsite storage & staging), sequencing of work.
$222M, yes, that is a staggering amount of money.
But will the $33M members of the public are asking to have reduced from PVHS’s budget be adequate to meet the needs of those 21 schools?
Should the BOE now draw a line in the sand at PVHS?
Will the Band-Aid solution work?
Will the projected estimate of $200M based on today’s dollars remain static or is that also a moving target?
Will the choices the BOE will make on April 13, solve the problems?
Can the BOE reach a compromise solution?
Is it time for the District to change its standards and revise its Ed Specs?
Should the WCCUSD follow the standards used by Charter Schools?
That, my friends is a whole other kettle of political fish.
So what is fair?
Here we are now.
And the hope that the new Pinole Valley High School will have its first graduation class in 2019, is in serious jeopardy.
The choices are excruciatingly difficult.
And no matter what the result, there will be an awful lot of angry people.
This all becomes political theatre now.
The Home Team
The Board Of Education will vote on the available options for the completion of Pinole Valley High School on Wednesday April 13, 2016, at 6:30 Pm. Lavonya Dejean MS.
The Options they will consider at that meeting are:
Option A. Award as bid, increase the project budget by $32,300,000.
This will decrease available funding associated with the WCCUSD Long Range Facilities Master Plan by $32.3M.
Option B – Redesign the project to 1200 student capacity, and within existing budget:
*Reduce overall square footage
* Revise WCCUSD Standards (preferred products, CHPS, etc.)
* Streamline Program Requirements
+Time for redesign and DSA approval, anticipated 12-24 months
+ Opportunity costs, anticipated (Escalation, portables lease etc) $10M
+Total reduction required with opportunity costs $45.7M
In closing, I want to thank my colleagues on the CBOC for their support and hard work.
It has been my honor to lead the CBOC over the last three years and although we may not agree on certain issues, I know that we all want the very best for our children.