Mystery Education Theater 3000

Month: June 2014

WCCUSD: We are a scope driven program damn it!

WCCUSD portrays Associate Superintendent – Chief Operations Officer Bill Fay’s description of scope-based budgeting, not as an explication of something everyone knows about anyway, but as the result of Mr. Fay having a bad day or something. We all know this is a crock of baloney, and that Dr. Harter’s continued carrying of water for Charles Ramsey makes him look like a smaller and smaller man.

Here is an additional source for the WCCUSD bond program’s central dynamic: the Facilities Subcommittee minutes. Naturally, the PDFs are not indexed in Google. I’ll have to comb through them manually. For now, here’s an example from the March 11th, 2014 meeting.

The item is:

C.1 Highland Elementary School Architectural Contract. Presenters: Magdy Abdalla, Chief Engineering Officer; Juan Garrahan, Program Manager of SGI; Steve Kwok of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects ; David Ranch, Principal at Highland

Mr. Abdalla introduced Mr. Steve Kwok of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects. Mr. Kwok attempted to explain the slowdown and why there was a need to reduce the scope.

Mr. Kwok is obviously used to working for districts where there are real budgets. The fool!

Mr. Ramsey clarified that this was a scope driven program and the budget was adjusted at the Board level, and where was the breakdown?

The King bangs his sceptre and points out the Prime Directive of WCCUSD. Mere financial concerns don’t matter. The complaisant School Board will simply change the budget.

Mr. Abdalla clarified to Mr. Ramsey that this was a scope driven program and the budget was adjusted at Board Level, as well as at a past FSC meeting.

The District Engineering Officer quickly jumps in to reassure the King that the Prime Directive will be followed.

Just one example…

Blows against the Empire / The Empire Strikes Back

I used Storify to collect together some news and commentary relevant to WCCUSD’s proposed bond #7, Measure H, leading up to the election tomorrow. Here are some points that strike me on looking at this:

  • Nobody in the media seems to care that much about WCCUSD’s uniquely garagantuan (for the number of students) construction program except for the Contra Costa Times.  KPIX got involved once, but only because of the violation (I want to say rape) of the Bond Oversight Committee (agenda hijacking by staff) to obtain a faux “consultation” for an already planned debt ceiling waiver application.
  • Tom Butt’s E-forum is a valuable tool for Charles Ramsey as a non-district platform for promoting his antics in the school district.
  • The simple moment of candor by Mr. Fay about the central dynamic (“scope-based budgeting”) for our bond construction program has a stickiness that will be hard to get over. Part of it’s stickiness, comes from the simple fact that it’s true. I can’t believe how many times it’s been presented to me over the years as just something everyone knows. Wink. Wink. The model fits the actual behavior of the district perfectly:
    • Spend money on projects without limit.
    • Adjust project budgets so they’re always on budget.
    • When it looks like the available cash is running low, bump a bunch of projects.
    • Use the sad stories of the bumped projects to pass another bond

    The difference this time was that the people at the Contra Costa Times listened to the tape.

See the Storify page listing coverage.

Tom Butt Bestirs Himself to Defend His Gravy Train

Tom Butt is something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde character. As a Richmond City Councilman, from what I see as a non-resident, he seems pretty sane and OK. When it comes to the school district, he becomes Ramsey’s lieutenant using things like his e-forum to promote Ramsey’s interests. His architecture firm is one of the vendors in the district bond program, so Ramsey’s interests are his interests.

On his e-forum/e-letter he sends out aimed at his constiuents, he generally maintains a sober tone, but, in response to the latest salvo from the Contra Costa Times against WCCUSD’s proposed bond #7 (Measure H), he gets all wiggy. Along with ranting against the newspaper, he also singles out people like me for attack at the end. This ending part is what I’ll zero in on for now.

Here’s the end part:

Another error in the editorial is the statement “But the school board appoints the members, so the [Oversight] committee isn’t independent.” The fact is that 75% of the Oversight Committee members are appointed by cities within the District, not by WCCUSD board members.

Regarding the Oversight Committee members who were quoted in the editorial, an E-FORUM reader describes them as follows:

They are a group of disgruntled parents who have held a long time grudge against Charles Ramsey. (Charley Cowens, Anton Jungher, Linda Ruiz Lozito, and Valerie Snyder (lives in Castro neighborhood, was against Portola being built in their neighborhood, sued our school district over this, tried to force Portola to be rebuilt on the Adams site etc. etc.) They tried to force the school board to have assigned districts/seats from Pinole and Hercules in an attempt to force Charles off the board (they thought if the district elections passed, that when Charles’ term was up there would already be a person from El Cerrito on the board which would preclude him from being able to run.

Finally, the editorial repeats the accusation that “ financial beneficiaries — construction companies, architectural firms and organized labor — have underwritten most of the $2.8 million in campaign contributions since 2002 backing the bond measures.” All of these contributions are legal and have been publicly reported as required by law. This is neither news nor is it a reason to bash the bond program. Any construction project requires architects and contractors, and all those working on the bond are doing so because they were low bidders or were competitively selected for providing the best value and highest quality of services. Because most of them, including my firm, Interactive Resources, have contributed to bond program campaigns should surprise no one. At the end of the day, it’s not we who decide, it’s the voters.

Let me walk through it:

Another error in the editorial is the statement “But the school board appoints the members, so the [Oversight] committee isn’t independent.” The fact is that 75% of the Oversight Committee members are appointed by cities within the District, not by WCCUSD board members.

The school district appoints the members of the oversight committee; various groups and individuals (including each school board member) nominate people for particular slots. There are 5 out of 19 (yes, 19) slots that are city nominees. This “75%” is just a lie to appeal to people who live in a city like Richmond.

Here is the official roster I keep as Secretary of CBOC. Note how long the Richmond position has been vacant because of the lack of a nominee.

Regarding the Oversight Committee members who were quoted in the editorial, an E-FORUM reader describes them as follows:

So, it’s not you, Tom, having at us, it’s just some anonymous reader. Who is it? If it’s someone who is a close associate of Charles Ramsey, that would help people in weighing the comment.

They are a group of disgruntled parents who have held a long time grudge against Charles Ramsey. (Charley Cowens, Anton Jungher, Linda Ruiz Lozito, and Valerie Snyder

  1. I am no longer a district parent and Anton never has been. (The public schools are a concern for the whole public.)
  2. Our “grudge” against Charles is a consistent opposition to his policy of an unlimited construction program that takes precedence over everything else and to the sort of regime in the district that places so much effective power in the hands of one person. When a public institution is so corrupt that it becomes the personal domain of one person (as WCCUSD often seems to be), any criticism of that institution can be trivialized as personal, but that’s just a rhetorical game.
  3. Valerie Snider has never been on CBOC.

(lives in Castro neighborhood, was against Portola being built in their neighborhood, sued our school district over this, tried to force Portola to be rebuilt on the Adams site etc. etc.)

How clever – attaching a parenthesized phrase only after Valerie’s name and no one else’s, so it seems like the statements apply to all of us. If it’s called out, it’s just an unintended ambiguity! None of the rest of us live in that neighborhood or sued the district over this. We do all agree that the Portola-new-build vs. Adams-retrofit decision is a perfect example of how our district squanders construction money.

They tried to force the school board to have assigned districts/seats from Pinole and Hercules in an attempt to force Charles off the board (they thought if the district elections passed, that when Charles’ term was up there would already be a person from El Cerrito on the board which would preclude him from being able to run.

Now we get into the big fat lie area…again. I was a co-chair of the ward elections campaign. We wanted to “force” an election to have the voters decide on whether to switch away from at-large elections to ward district elections like in Oakland. One of the major objectives was to bust up things like the El Cerrito 3 (out of 5) that seemed to control the Board frequently and also to make it easier for candidates without a lot of money or special interest backing a better chance to run an effective campaign. I wouldn’t have cried if Ramsey ended up off the board, but I had no doubt he would find some way to stay on if it came to that. The point was to achieve the main two objectives. However, to a Charles Ramsey groupie, it would have to be completely about him.

Pinole and Hercules are too small to be separate wards (and were not treated as such on the submitted map), so this idea of reserving two seats is ridiculous and just pandering to a Richmond audience.

Finally, the editorial repeats the accusation that “ financial beneficiaries — construction companies, architectural firms and organized labor — have underwritten most of the $2.8 million in campaign contributions since 2002 backing the bond measures.” All of these contributions are legal and have been publicly reported as required by law. This is neither news nor is it a reason to bash the bond program. Any construction project requires architects and contractors, and all those working on the bond are doing so because they were low bidders or were competitively selected for providing the best value and highest quality of services. Because most of them, including my firm, Interactive Resources, have contributed to bond program campaigns should surprise no one. At the end of the day, it’s not we who decide, it’s the voters.

Presumably, this is now Tom speaking. Yes, of course it’s legal, but many perfectly legal actions can have socially harmful consequences. Not only does the large amount of money floating around create a vicious circle of endless bonds, but that money also affects who gets elected to oversee the expenditures and decide on how much effort to put into pursuing future bonds.

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