Monday, August 28, 2017

Who decides? (part one)

In any truly public school system, the institution has to answer to the democratically elected school board. That’s the theory. In practice, an institution naturally wants to run itself without interference, and sometimes chafes at the supervision of an elected board. The board, after all, represents everyone in the district, and sometimes the desires of the larger community don’t perfectly coincide with the preferences that win out within the institution. Part of the board’s job—a particularly important part—is to make sure that it controls the institution and not the other way around.

One recent illustration of this tension involved the construction of new classrooms from interior common space at Penn Elementary. The administration asked us to approve a contract with an outside company for part of the work. The proposal (described here) came before the board on July 25—just four weeks before school was to start. The administration told us that the project would raise Penn’s listed capacity by fifty students—from 633 to 683.

I voted against the proposal because I was against permanently raising Penn’s capacity number when it still has the same cafeteria space that it had when the district considered it to be a 387-student school. (I explain my reasons more fully here.) The proposal failed on a vote of 3-3.

Three weeks later, the administration brought back the same contract proposal. At this meeting, however, it came to light that the district’s contractors (as well as district staff) had continued working in Penn even after the board voted down the contract. This naturally raised serious concerns: Did the administration move ahead with a contract even after the board had rejected it?

When I asked about why the contractor had continued working after the board voted down the contract, the facilities director and the superintendent gave what struck me as two somewhat different explanations. (You can listen to the exchange here; the superintendent later clarified his response here.)

In any event, school was about to start, and Penn needed some (at least temporary) space. I moved to approve the proposal on the condition that the project would not raise Penn’s listed capacity number and that any increase in Penn’s capacity would require board approval. The motion passed 5-1.

The next day, a member of the public emailed the superintendent, asking what the district now considered Penn’s capacity to be. Late last week, he forwarded her the response of the district’s facilities department: 658.

Part two here.


amy said...

Is there a way for the Board to fire staff reporting to the superintendent for insubordination to the board?
What ways exist of removing the superintendent?

amy said...

They're also insistent and not that bright.
What did they promise Lacina?
What other pending deals exist with Lacina?

If I hadn't lived in a more crooked town than IC before, I probably wouldn't think of these things. However. They do seem rather anxious to preserve this particular relationship, which makes me wonder why it's so very important. If, say, I wanted to have a look at Lacina's books, just to make sure that the amount charged for district work actually accorded with Lacina's expenditures and profits and that money hadn't somehow gone astray, how would I go about that? If the board wanted to investigate, how would the board go about that?

Anonymous said...

This brings up another reason to vote against the bond: Since the ballot language does not commit the district to build any particular projects, the administration, like it did at Penn, will build what it wants, even if the Board directs otherwise.

Anonymous said...

This Penn project should have come to the board before they ever started. It must have been known outside contractor help would be needed.

They needed the money to finish it but first they went ahead and made the gym unusable as a second needed gym to force it through?

This was most definitely a change to the FMP too. All FMP changes need to go before the board if we are to trust this district with bond money. Which after this, I really don't trust them anymore.

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine any executive at any big company ignoring a board vote and proceeding to do work that wasn't approved. Big red flag.

Anonymous said...



Please read these about physical plant director, Duane Van Hemert. My question is: where do we find these shady figures? Both Murley and Duane were basically ran out of town. Now you are asking me to give them $200 million dollars? Is this some kind of sick joke?

Anonymous said...

Chris - what is the status of the Hoover demolition ballot question? I saw an article in the PC last week about it being heard in court but I didn't know when or if a decision would be made, or if there have been any developments. Thanks!

Chris said...

Anonymous (9:24 am) -- Yes, the judge heard argument on the Hoover petition issue on Thursday. The judge said that he understood that the issue was an emergent matter and that he would rule as soon as possible. But it's hard to know just how soon that might be.