Business As Usual In BUSD

Last night's board meeting went from a long and boring meeting to an entertaining show. The district's facilities projects, primarily the sports complex and the district office building, were once again the stars of the show. For some real entertainment, check out my tweets during the meeting. You can find them at Twitter.com by putting "#busd" in the search field.

Mr. Greenwood continues to appear to be concerned about cost overruns. I have seen this coming and I've been reporting on this since before the bid process ever began. Once again, Mr. Greenwood proposes we cut back on the scope of the new district office to cover the rising cost of the stadium. I think it's a little late to be concerned about being good stewards of our children's money when it comes to these projects. By allocating all their proceeds from the Measure Z bond proceeds and leaving nothing in reserve, the board and administration have again put the quality of education for our kids in jeopardy.

They began this process by selling the voters a bond measure that specifically listed many projects and programs that would improve the educational environment in Beaumont. They then used a single sentence "Upgrade and improve physical education facilities." to justify a $12,000,000 or $15,000,000 or $ ??,000,000 sports complex. They ignored my requests to scale back the cost of the sports complex and district HQ and work on some of the projects voters thought they were approving.

Once the measure was approved and before they even had any money, they put together design committees to develop a list of design requirements. They provided no financial direction and no budget for these committees to follow. After the first bond sale, they opened a competitive bid process and ignored the recommendations of their own committee and awarded the contract to a firm with a higher bid and less experience building sports complexes. We were told the decision was made in favor of a local firm, Bogh Engineering, because of the administration's past experience and existing relationship with this firm and the community's pressure to keep the business local.

From the day the contract was awarded, Mr. Greenwood has been warning of cost overruns, this was long before the design and cost approval process had formally started. I asked back then, what does he know that we don't. Over the last few months, Mr. Greenwood has continued bringing up his concerns. Last night it all seemed to come to a head. He is now claiming the process the administration has recommended, and the board authorized, doesn't provide adequate oversight on the costs of these projects. Where was his concern when I, and others, were asking the district to take a step back and act in our kids' best interests.

Last night we learned that Mr. Greenwood has been meeting with Bogh Engineering and reviewing documentation of design overruns. Now he wants to know where we are going to come up with the money to pay for the overruns. Superintendent Dr. Kayrell and Assistant Superintendent of Business Mays Kakish grilled Mr. Greenwood and Russ Bogh last night to find what "inside" information has been provided to Mr. Greenwood that other board members haven't been given access to. Mr. Greenwood first refused to answer direct questions from the Superintendent about his access to the inside information and complained he didn't appreciate being called a liar. But in Mr. Greenwood's closing statement he admitted that he had been meeting with Bogh and asking questions. He said he had been reviewing documents that all the board members have access to and getting answers to questions that all the other board members could be asking. He claimed the documents were all in the public's domain. If they are, then let us all take a look.

I think this all comes back to the poor advice, lack of direction and control the administration's business department is providing the board. The board should also be held accountable for tolerating the poor advice and direction. Why isn't Kakish and Kayrell asking questions of Bogh and reviewing projected cost overruns and design changes? There are other examples of where our business department is failing us. The handling of the kindergarten class size reporting and the effectiveness of the Budget Review Committee are two I've been trying to address.

Last month, I presented information that, I believe, indicated the district filed year-end reports the Assistant Superintendent of Business, Mrs. Kakish, knew were false. Kakish, her department, and Board President David Sanchez, were following incorrect class size guidelines from the very beginning of last school year. After the district filed their year-end reports, Kakish claims a spreadsheet error, not her failure to follow proper state guidelines, would result in a $145,000 penalty to the district. Then we were presented with a special waiver request to correct the false year end reports. The request was also false, it didn't provide a justification that matched Kakish's public explanation of the spreadsheet error.

The direction Kakish and the administration have been providing the Budget Review Committee has taken what could be a valuable collaborative community effort and made it a joke. She refuses to accept the fact that public school funding has changed forever. Rather than throwing out budgets that begin with a deficit assumption and begin working with educators, parents, board members, and community members to address the new budget environment, she waits and hopes for the federal government to bail us out.

Anytime I, or someone else, raises concerns about the business processes of this administration, we are reminded how well we are doing in comparison to the struggling districts around us. I want to know how many teachers would accept justification of poor performance from a student who received a "C" who says that at least he didn't do as bad as all the other students who earned Ds and Fs. I wouldn't accept this from my kids. When are we going to stop accepting this from our district? When is one of OUR board representatives going to take a serious look at how business is being done in BUSD?