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I spent 4 years on the WCCUSD Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee starting in January 2011. Then in January 2015, I decided to take a break from district involvement after almost 10 years in various school district committee and PTA positions in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. I also felt it was important to make room for new people to contribute. Now, I’m back.

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Budget and Schedule Are the Hobgoblins of Small Minds

It started at our WCCUSD CBOC meeting in January as this agenda item:

F.2 Budget Adjustments to Bond Program (tabled at December meeting)
The Board of Education has just approved $26 million in budget increases for bond projects.
Why did this happen and what sort of controls are in place to prevent this from reoccurring.
Submitted as a question by the CBOC Chair to Bill Fay on 1/20/14.

This had earlier elicited this brief written statement from Mr. Fay, WCCUSD Chief Operations Officer:

The WCCUSD Bond program is scope driven that delivers outstanding facilities that meets the express needs of each school community.

As such, all projects receive the most current design standards, technologies, educational specifications and equipment without regard to project timing. The program also moves forward without regard to contractor bidding climate and does not “value engineer” any scope. The remedy requires a change in
the number of projects that can be accomplished.

When the matter came up, Mr. Fay did not detail how this philosophy led specifically to the $29M shortfall, but instead expanded on the philosophy of scope-based budgeting at least as used in this district: spend without limit on projects until you run out of money -> bump remaining projects to the next bond -> get the next bond.

It’s all in this recording of Mr. Fay with some comments by Martin Coyne along with comments by committee members. It’s only 9 minutes; it’s worth a listen.

Update (5/22/2014):

  • The meeting date was January 29th, 2014.
  • The full meeting recording by district staff is still on the podcast site at this page.

CBOC Chair Installs Successor

I’m now the secretary of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Citizens Bond Oversight Committee. How did this happen?

At the last committee meeting (on August 15th), as an aside, the chair, Robert Studdiford, stated that there would be elections for officers at the next meeting. He gave no other information. I assumed this meant the usual roll-over of the current officers.

Leading up to this September 26th meeting, there was no information available to the committee as a whole about whether the current officers would continue. No clue in the agenda. It just said “Officer Elections.”

When we had our meeting, the chair said we were supposed to have voted on officers awhile before, but it just hadn’t worked out. Then it turned out he wasn’t running for re-election this time. Whatever the explanation, it was a surprise. Kris Hunt nominated me for chair. Then, Mr. Studdiford, the chair, nominated Joseph Gallia, the Construction Trades Council representative.

Without any further discussion, we moved to a vote and Robert’s hand-picked successor was duly elected 6-4. I ended up as secretary, because nobody else wanted the job. (Or, maybe the hand-picked person didn’t make it to the meeting.)

The bright side is Robert is no longer chair. However, here’s what concerns me about this:

  1. There was no discussion about the contested presidential election, just steamrollering to a vote. When there was a contest for secretary last time, we had a discussion. Making up the rules at the moment of their application is not right. I would have liked to hear what Mr. Gallia would do as chair and to have been able to say what I would do as chair.
  2. The most bizarre aspect of this is related to the fact that Robert is running for school board. Joseph is a business agent for Ironworkers Union Local 378. This union has endorsed Robert as a candidate (and presumably given him money). So, Robert installed an official of a union supporting him for school board as his replacement as chair of our oversight committee.

Update: It turns out that since I last checked his endorsements page, Robert has updated it. Now, there is no longer a listing for the Ironworkers Union. If this page was from his 2008 run, it seems pretty weird that a campaign would not replace the page till now. (Here’s the Google archive link of the last version of the page and a screen cap I took of the archived page–in case the link gets overwritten.)

More Stuff: Bond Oversight Committee Recordings

I’ve always been annoyed by the fact that, even though staff makes recordings of our WCCUSD Citizens Bond Oversight Committee meetings, no one seemed to be able to get a hold of them. Then (supposedly) they are destroyed after being used to draft minutes. Not very useful for the rest of us.

After a lot of work, I think can get them regularly now. As of today, I have recordings of the last two meetings.

The next step was finding a way to make them available. For this, I’m trying a service called Podomatic. It gives you 500Mb of free storage and packages the sound files as podcasts. Just use a special link to get to the podcast page:

http://wccusd-cboc.podomatic.com

From this page you can listen to a recording, subscribe to the recordings, or download them. A multi- or single-track players can easily be embedded like this:

I’ll see how this works out.