In my previous post, I wrote about how a large bureaucratic institution is a force of its own and naturally wants to run itself. The job of the elected board is to ensure that the decisions belong ultimately to the larger community, not just to the institution itself.
Here’s another recent anecdote. Two meetings ago, the administration presented the board with a schematic design proposal for the renovation of Lincoln School. The renovation itself had already been incorporated into the district’s facilities plan; we were at the step of the process where the board approves preliminary floor plans and preliminary budget projections.
Our facilities director put on an extensive presentation of the proposed schematic design, noting at the end, “Currently, this is over budget.”
“How far over budget?” two board members asked simultaneously.
“I would say as much as thirty or forty percent,” the facilities director said.
This, unsurprisingly, caused some concern among the board members. (Listen to board member Lori Roetlin’s concerns here.) But the board decided to approve the schematic design on the understanding that we would still have to consider, at one of the next steps, whether we were comfortable with a project that would be that far over the initial budget. The facilities director reassured us that there were two more approval steps before the design itself would be final.
Yet the following week, as we were discussing the same step of the planned Mann renovation, the facilities director raised the concern that rejecting the schematic design could end up causing a delay in the completion date. Was that true of the Lincoln project, too, I asked? The facilities director replied that going back for a new schematic design could risk a delay.
In sum: The administration presented the board with a proposal that was 30 to 40% over budget, and then explained that if the board didn’t approve it, the project could be delayed. If the board approves the proposal in those circumstances, who really decided the issue?
Part three here.