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.
On April 19th, I was approved by the Facilities Subcommittee as an unincorporated area representative for CBOC. (I live in Kensington.) On April 27th, I was approved by the WCCUSD Board of Education without incident. Then on May 18th, I had my first meeting, a meeting in which I was greeted with two thick packets, for the meeting itself and for the draft annual report, as shown in the photo above. Of course, these had been available before as required, but it’s still quite an image for returning to the committee.
Then and Now
When I first started on the Committee, it was quite a dramatic scene. Anton Jungherr was a lone wolf on the committee, and the committee leadership at the time was mainly interested in getting rid of him — for all practical purposes their only goal. The chair, Robert Studdiford, was somewhat unhinged in how he ran things, consumed by his disdain for Anton Jungherr and a desire to protect and promote the bond program at all costs. Board liaison Charles Ramsey was also often in the mix acting effectively as a co-chair a lot of the time. The minutes were a constant mess and source of controversy, and so on and so forth. An unpleasant scene seemed to occur at each meeting.
For this new start on the Committee, it was a different scene entirely. Even though there are real differences among members about policy, everything ran smoothly with little rancor in evidence.
The Me in the Meeting
For this first meeting, I had a motion passed and got appointed to a committee chairmanship. My motion was under item E4 concerning comparative construction costs. The suggested motion was to have the staff come up with a good unit cost measurement and include it in a report.
Unfortunately the person driving this, Tom Waller, wasn’t at the meeting. The staff pushed back and said it wasn’t clear enough. On the committee some invoked “apples and oranges” as a reason not to pursue the matter at all. (People who like spending gobs of money on construction deny that the costs can be meaningfully compared, so you can never know if you’re really spending too much.) Without Tom around, it seemed like it would take a long time to hash this out, so I moved to refer to a committee to refine the idea more before bringing it back. Two people, Peter Chau and Margaret Browne, who wanted to just kill the idea voted no. Don Gosney abstained. The referral passed.
I also agreed to be appointed chair of the website subcommittee. My task here will be first to clarify the scope and define an ending for what is supposed to be an “ad hoc” subcommittee.
Why I Came Back
I feel that a lot of improvements have occurred under the chairing of Ivette Ricco and now Tom Panas in making the committee a more collegial group for holding the school district accountable for the use of construction bond funds, but there’s more to be done to carry forward this momentum. The committee needs to assert its relevance more by increasing public awareness of the committee role and by pressuring the district for more respect as the community representative for the bond program. I am very irritated at how the CBOC itself was relegated to the position of a minor “stakeholder” in the long-range planning development process even though the CBOC kicked off the process with its resolution in January 2015.
Also, although I had originally left with the desire to make room for new people, that didn’t seem to happen. Old members like Anton Jungherr, Antonio Medrano, and Don Gosney have been brought back in, so I felt less reticence about rejoining.
What Do You Think?
- Should there be more encouragement of fresh blood on advisory committees instead of using returning previous members?
- What are the best ways to compare “apples and oranges” in construction costs, if possible at all?