I have literally gotten to the point where I want to throw things when I watch the School Board meetings. It is only my self-control and laziness to clean that stop me from doing it.
At this point, I’m not even sure why I care anymore because the school that my kids attend is newer and in reasonably good shape.
Last Tuesday’s School Board meeting was the final straw for me, probably because essentially what we were told was that look, there is no way this process is going to anywhere near finished by the time we need it to be finished in order to put a School Facilities bond on the ballot. No. way.
What we learned was that the District is way behind the eight ball when it comes to developing a comprehensive Master Facilities Plan. These plans, according to the Director of Facilities Robbie Lyng, takes — at a minimum — 14 months. 14 months. To make the ballot, the District only has 7 months.
The thing that is most frustrating to me is that this process regarding the Master Facilities Plan started in January. January. 7 months ago. And back then, the School Board punted on the issue because Barbara Kahn didn’t trust staff and felt as though they had an agenda as to what they wanted to do with facilities. Oh and didn’t want to hire “outsiders” to tell Alameda what to do. Trish Spencer didn’t want to move forward because she was still pandering to AEA regarding contract negotiations. And the others just wanted to play as nice as possible.
The problem is I think the only member on the School Board that can see the macro issues is Mike McMahon. Everyone else appears to be mired in the minutiae and the problem with Mike McMahon (hi Mike!) is that he doesn’t have the ability to bring along the other members to see that he’s talking a whole lot of sense. Last Tuesday’s meeting is really where I came to the realization that former School Board member Ron Mooney really was the glue that was holding the Board together. He was a big picture guy but could also bring people along with him on his journey.
Watching this meeting again, I realize that we haven’t really moved anywhere since January and we are really behind. I thought outgoing CFO Robert Shemwell explained really well what the District Staff wanted to do, which has not changed in seven months which was to hire a consultant to take a look at the existing facilities and talk about, well these items:
The issue is, how do you make these decisions and solutions without information about demographics current and future, the state of the current facilities, the future of education and grade formations, what role would HAHS have in these plans, what about space requirements of District staff, etc. and so forth. Essentially everything Mike McMahon has been talking about since forever. Essentially this whole Master Facilities Plan has gotten hijacked by people trying to show up the Superintendent or trying to prove District Staff wrong and in the end the community as a whole suffers because there are folks out there that are so distrustful of what the District Staff says or what their motivations are they either refuse or fail to see the bigger picture.
To me, it’s pretty simple. If I were queen of AUSD I would have hired the consultants in January for $300K. Look in the grand scheme of things $300K is a drop in the bucket when we talk about the very basic facilities study that was produced a while ago said that there are $92 million in bandage fixes. If the eventual solution is that we decided to reduce the number of neighborhood schools then some of that $92 million does not exist any longer, right? The problem is, we don’t know what we want because we don’t know what anything would cost if we decide to reconfigure the way that we house our students. The only thing we do know is that we (1) have space issues and (2) have aging facilities. But beyond that we keep having these meetings blind, talking about what we want and what we don’t want without any idea as to the cost of anything.
After the consultants bring their huge Master Facilities Plans with all the costs outlined, then you share the information and then involve the community so that the community can decide, yes I want that or no I don’t want that. Simple right? Not for this board.
At this point I am unwilling to vote for any bond put forward that doesn’t follow those basic steps. And you all know that I am not one that shies away from voting for taxes and bonds. I’m just too frustrated by this process to even bring myself to want to care anymore. I would urge everyone to watch that January meeting to see what the staff was presenting back then to see if it is anything out of line. I’m just appalled that in 7 months we are, honestly, right back where we started and that’s just depressing.