Monday, February 11, 2008

Where Does the Money Go?

The Board is having a meeting on Wednesday night. The agenda is always posted on-line and always makes for interesting reading especially when it comes to Facilities. This one is no exception.

First, there's added costs ($360,000) for New School (with Facilities claiming they had no idea it would need to be bigger because it is to be a preK-8, not a K-8. This was known for a long time so I don't know where they get this.) Then there's the timeline - New School is to be finished by August 2009. That is a very quick timeline for project that has just started. I suspect this will be only the first of several requests for more money for this project. I can't see how you can get building like this done that quickly.

Then there's Denny/Sealth. It looks like Facilities is going with Option 2 which basically means they cough up $10M more to go to Sealth so they can appease that community. The wording here is:
"The February 6, 2007 Schools’ Capital Project Levy provided for the co-location of a new Denny Middle School on the Chief Sealth High School campus. The co-location of the Denny Middle School to the Chief Sealth High School campus site has many financial benefits for both schools beyond that of separate campuses.
The co-location makes available a bonus of levy funds for the renovation efforts to Chief Sealth High School that will significantly enhance the school’s environment and extend its functional life and enhance higher academic achievement through the upgrades of life safety elements, technology, environmental conditions and aesthetics."

No, the Capital project "Levy" (it was a bond measure), DIDN'T provide for the co-location because that was NOT what the voter's guide said. Facilities wants to perpetuate this big lie over and over.

Financial benefits? Interesting because not one word of that issue was in the recent Denny/Sealth presentation last week at Sealth. The financial savings could only be minimal. Both schools will have gyms and Sealth will eventually get its own renovation. They are altering or destroying previous BEX II work that they now have to rebuild. What savings?

Also there's the line "co-location makes available a bonus of levy funds". Huh? What bonus of funds?

And where will this extra $10M come from?

Capital: $10 million transfer in support of Option II.
• $1.5 million from Debt Service Fund
• $3.5 million from BEX III Technology
• $5 million from BEX III Infrastructure

The Debt Service fund is to pay off the huge debt we have on the Stanford Building. It shouldn't be diverted. $3.5 M from BEX III technology would come out of the $42M allotted in the bond measure for technology. Somebody loses here. And, taking $5M from the infrastructure part of the fund (which I'm not sure which part of the BEX III this is - they don't like to give complete breakdowns of the funds) but it can't be good. I can certainly hope that no projects go overbudget or they find major issues like at Garfield.

[Update: I found the Infrastructure fund. That would be the $26M fund allotted in BEX III for those pesky things like water pipes, indoor air quality and athletic fields (and fields got $6M so I'm guessing someone isn't getting their field).]

Oh, and speaking of Garfield, here's another one on the agenda:

"I move that $2,797,500 be transferred from the BEX II Ending Fund Balance to the Garfield High School project to cover construction contract Modification No. 8 to Lease Crutcher Lewis."

Another $3M for Garfield? Well, let's see, that project already took the ENTIRE $14M for Secondary BOC for cost overrruns and yet, here we go again. There are, of course, a myriad of reasons (or excuses) why this is. Well, I guess we're in the big times now because we have our first official $100M+ building.

23 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Facilities can write these tissue paper lies because no one ever challenges them on them. The head of Facilities doesn't do it, the COO doesn't do it, the Superintendent doesn't do it and the Board members don't do it. If there is no downside to telling lies, they will keep telling them.

The part I like about the Board Action Report about the Denny Sealth project is the description of Community Engagement Process. In it, they talk about the work they will do to keep the community informed about the progress on the project. That's not community engagement. That's PR.

Charlie Mas said...

WOW!

After reading the Board Action Report for the Denny - Sealth action item, I sent this email to the Board:

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Members of the Seattle School Board,

Your agenda for the February 13 meeting includes an action item for introduction to transfer $10 million of BEX III money to the Denny / Sealth project. Whether or not you eventually approve the reconstruction of Denny Middle School on the Chief Sealth High School campus or not, you must - absolutely must - demand an honest Board Action Report from the staff. You must - absolutely must - reject the report Mr. Stephens has submitted.

In his report, Mr. Stephens writes:

"The February 6, 2007 Schools' Capital Project Levy provided for the co-location of a new Denny Middle School on the Chief Sealth High School campus."

This statement is patently false. First of all, the vote last February was a Bond Issue, not a Levy. Second, the language of the resolution did not make any reference to co-locating the schools. The resolution reads:

"(1) Middle/K-8 school improvements including full renovation of Hamilton, and replacement of South Shore and Denny.
(2) High School improvements including renovation of Chief Sealth and Nathan Hale, addition at Ingraham and modernization of Rainier Beach Career and Technology facilities."

In his report, Mr. Stephens writes:

"The co-location of the Denny Middle School to the Chief Sealth High School campus has many financial benefits for both schools beyond that of separate campuses."

This statement is patently false. There are no financial benefits to the schools.

In his report, Mr. Stephens writes:

"The co-location makes available a bonus of levy funds for the renovation efforts to Chief Sealth High School..."

This statement is patently false. The $10 million "bonus" that Mr. Stephens references does not come as a result of the co-location, but will be transferred from the Debt Service Fund, from BEX III Technology allocation, and from the BEX III Infrastructure allocation. It could not be a recent "bonus" result of the co-location if, as Mr. Stephens contends, the co-location of the schools was always the plan. What projects will not be done because these funds will be transferred? Mr. Stephens doesn't say.

In his report, Mr. Stephens purports to describe the Community Engagement Process, but the process he describes is not a community engagement process but a public relations process. It does not include two-way communication and the inclusion of stakeholder input in the decision-making, but one-way communications such as newsletters, web site postings, "and multi-media updates on the progress of the Denny/Sealth project."

Moreover, where this section of the report was intended as an exposition of the community engagement done BEFORE the Board vote, this is a description, instead, of the community relations work intended to come AFTER the Board vote.

The Community Engagement on this project was indisputably inadequate. The staff - even to this day - persists in evading any authentic community engagement, cancelling the scheduled Question and Answer period of the February 4 community meeting and refusing to answer questions at that meeting. The information provided to the public - even to this day - continues to be incomplete, inaccurate, and dishonest.

Pacific Communications Consultants offers Community Relations services as well as Public Involvement services. Which of these two, very different, services will PCC be providing the District under this contract? Will it be a public relations effort or a public engagement effort?

Regardless of your position on the Denny/Sealth project, the wisdom of merging the campuses, or the costs - if any - associated with changing the plan, you must insist that staff provide you with a complete and honest Board Action Report. You must reject this report and demand a revised one.

Thank you for your attention,

Charlie Mas

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, sorry, I just can't stop nagging this.

If the $10 million "bonus" suddenly appeared, then couldn't it be added to the savings from not building the galleria, not remodelling the brand-new library and commons, and the addition of the $500,000 grant to make up the $15 million needed for Option 3?

Marcus said...

Sorry, Charlie. Sometimes you get a little carried away. Of course there are financial benefits to co-location. There is one boiler to service rather than two, one kitchen to run rather than two, etc etc... The operating cost savings are huge. For a district that is losing kids every year, especially in the south end, we need to see some cost savings.

The fix has been in for a while. "Option 2" has been the annointed idea since January- evidenced by the date of the Superintendent's report attached to the Board agenda. The public meeting in February to gather input was just a dog and pony show- which is fine. This was an issue for which community engagement should have been done when the idea was in its infancy. Trying to play catch-up after the fact was always an insult to the intelligence of this community. This is a leadership issue. The leadership should make a decision about this, explain their decision, and move on.

Regardless of what was written in the "levy language", the co-location was what was advertised in every dang thing the district and SchoolsFirst put out about the bond. If you missed it then you weren't paying attention. The co-location may not have been included in the official language, but it wasn't EXCLUDED either. It WAS included in the district propaganda.

Maybe somebody wants to look into why we're spending $60m+, in addition to the $10m+ in capital dollars already spent in the last decade, to have Sealth have an additional useful life of 25 years. Seems like a lot of money for just another 25 years. I believe that Hale is also being built to have a 25 year standard. So, we're spending nearly $150m for two high school to get through the next 25 years when we're underenrolled at the high school level? What's the ROI? We have too many seats and not enough kids to fill them as it is!

Cleveland- Under capacity
RB- Waaaay under capacity
Hale- Under capacity
Ingraham- Held nearly 2000 students when I went there in the 70s
And Sealth... drum roll... UNDER CAPACITY

Why are we fixing so many of these aging half-empty buildings when it is so expensive to do so? We need to stop spreading our resources so thin. Clearly, quantity is not quality here.

GULP- guess what, folks? We need to close more school buildings! We don't need to sell these properties, but there's no reason (other than irrational community sentiment) to have so many crumbling buildings open and hobbling along when they aren't filled to capactiy.

Building in Seattle is EXPENSIVE. Really, really expensive. And because nobody in the construction world (of which I am an active participant) relishes the idea of working for the lack-lustre leadership of SPS, building SCHOOLS in particular in Seattle will always be expensive.

Step back, folks. Don't focus on how poorly Mr. Stephens' report is written, focus on the bigger picture. Let's be rational. There are a lot of emotional arguments, but we need some rational thinking and some leadership.

dan dempsey said...

Marcus,

You want to see lots more kids leaving Denny/Sealth or the district if they have an option then co-locate. I guess it must be a good thing the new student assignment plan will not allow many of these students to exit this really bad idea by going to a different SPS school.

The district needs to contribute to the community well-being. The fact that they are unable to make progress with the city in making many of these "crumbling buildings" multi-use facilities is yet another testament to their inability to accomplish much in the way of effective decision making that benefits the community.

Anonymous said...

Marcus,

Nathan Hale may be underenrolled, but Roosevelt is overenrolled and the the NE Seattle elementary schools are currently being asked to take in way more kids than they have room for due to a 25% increase in enrollment for the 08-09 school year. We thought last year was a big year and now this year is even bigger. They will have to make Nathan Hale more appealing to all these parents because if any school can't absorb this increase in student population it is Roosevelt.

dan dempsey said...

Marcus,

What nededs to happen at Hale to make it more appealing?

Dan

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, Marcus, I was aware of the plan to merge the campuses prior to the vote. I had read the materials and I knew.

I'm not opposed to the shared campus; I'm not in favor of it. I haven't had the information necessary to reach any conclusion.

The financial benefits you mention, the shared boiler, kitchen, etc. are, as you write, savings in the District's operating costs - the merger has financial benefits for the District - not the schools. The school budgets will not benefit.

No financial benefits - so prominent here - have ever been mentioned before. They do not appear on in the powerpoint presentation made on the 4th.

And yes, it is clear that the fix is in. The Board Action Report is dated January 31. It clearly shows in the timeline that the Director of Facilities Reviewed and Approved the decision on February 4 - both before the public meeting.

Speaking of the public meeting, the District has posted answers to nearly all of the questions raised that night on the web site.

I will say that they still claim that plans and permits to rebuild Denny at the current Denny site would take 24 months although their own master schedule shows it happening in 16 months and shows that it just started six months ago.

Other than that, the answers to the questions on the web site are clear and pretty complete. If they had informed people like this all along, there would not have been nearly as much trouble as they have had. Why are they so resistant to informing people? It creates problems for them.

I agree that this is a leadership issue. Of course, leadership is about getting people to follow you willingly. We haven't seen any of that. I also agree that the leadership should explain their decision; they have only just now begun to do so.

Anonymous said...

Hale is fully enrolled to the capacity the school leadership has requested; which is the capacity that allows them to break the classes into their academy/integrated studies groups. Each of these groups is 90 students, so to enroll more, Hale would have to increase by 360 (90 students per grade), which would stress the capacity. I attended Hale in the late 70s/early 80s with a larger enrollment, but there were more portables in use as well. Hale is not in trouble, and most parents and students who are there like it. Our family is thrilled with the education and opportunities for leadershipand mentoring our son is receiving. I really wish this blog would lay off the myth that Hale is under-achieving because it is not "Roosevelt-lite."

Melissa Westbrook said...

A)I AM focused on the big picture which is what is credibility of this district? If the Board chooses to go along with this, then they'll believe anything staff tells them. The big picture is we DO have enough students to fill the high schools but we have more students trying to get into some high schools. The balance is off.

B)As to Hale's capacity,"Hale is fully enrolled to the capacity the school leadership has requested", well, that's nice for Hale. It would be nice if every high school got to have the capacity they requested. The fact is Roosevelt is over enrolled and we have asked to not have it continue on this way. When the assignment plan gets created and boundaries drawn it is very likely Hale will, in the spirit of cooperation (if not on the direct order of Dr. G-J), have to be bigger. Roosevelt's leadership would like the luxury of having fewer students because it would benefit what our program is trying to do but we haven't been that lucky.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I agree that Hale might have to grow bigger under the new enrollment plan. I'm trying to fight the impression that Marcus and others have that Hale is under-enrolled because of a problem with the school. That is not the case.

Anonymous said...

Hale is fully enrolled, but is not filled with NE neighborhood kids. They stay fully enrolled because the kids from the south end take those extra seats. Last year they even took a number of Shoreline (out of district) students. Roosevelt is enrolled primarily with neighborhood kids. This is telling. Why does Hale have the "extra" capacity to take all of these out of neighborhood kids???

Anonymous said...

Actually if you look at the numbers that were printed in the Times last week at
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/zoom/html/2004161060.html
you'll see that that is also a myth - Hale actually has the fewest south end kids of the north end schools, even adjusting for the smaller size of the school.

Anonymous said...

Does Hale offer AP classes? And, if so are they contained, or an add on to a regular class? I have had trouble getting a straight answer from anybody at Hale, and the website doesn't clarify either?

Anonymous said...

Hale offers some of both. While this may seem like a strange way to do AP, they are having good success - the 11th grade history teacher reported the other night that they have more kids taking the AP test since they de-tracked, and they are passing at a higher rate.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Most of the math/science AP is likely to be separate (that is what we were told when our son was at Hale) while LA/History is an add-on. I know they had a relevance and rigor night; it might have been explained there.

They might have more kids passing the AP test but the reason they might have more is before they had an admission requirement to get in and would only have 1-2 AP History classes (even though the demand was there for more). The tracking was all their own because of their admission procedure to get into an AP class. Most schools say anyone can get into an AP class.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Most of the math/science AP is likely to be separate (that is what we were told when our son was at Hale) while LA/History is an add-on. I know they had a relevance and rigor night; it might have been explained there.

They might have more kids passing the AP test but the reason they might have more is before they had an admission requirement to get in and would only have 1-2 AP History classes (even though the demand was there for more). The tracking was all their own because of their admission procedure to get into an AP class. Most schools say anyone can get into an AP class.

Anonymous said...

What exactly is "de-tracking"?

Marcus said...

Capacity and enrollment are two different things. Capacity is what the building will hold and enrollment is the magic number the leadership has decided works for them.

Yes, Hale has a smaller enrollment. So does New School! Must be nice to have this privelege. Why does Hale get to be smaller at the suffering of the other high schools? And once BEX is done and it is shiny and new looking, then more folks will want to go to Hale, so Hale will be sucking it up and dealing with more students for sure. Hale will still be a great school.

Denny and Sealth are going to be FINE. Really. I think people are a little swept up in a Chicken Little mentality. The sky is not falling. Two schools that need help are getting it.

Sealth is geting a smokin' deal. It's a hideous and outdated school that is just fine other than that and the fact that it needs a boiler. So, they're getting all that and a bag of chips, but they have to share some space with their little brother.

Both schools will be stronger together. The teachers can align what their doing so that the transition is easier from eighth to ninth grade. Everybody will know more about what everybody else is doing... which is always a good thing for secondary ed.

Charlie Mas said...

Given the easy, blithe way that the District routinely approves cost overruns on capital projects, I don't see why they don't just wave their magic wand over the extra $15 million expense of Option 3, call it a cost overrun, and approve it.

Anonymous said...

Marcus
Maybe Sealth doesn't want the nasty old frito chips they are being offered...give me a break!

Anonymous said...

Marcus, you said "Sealth is getting a smokin' deal." The obvious implication is that 93% of Sealth staff are too ignorant to recognize what's best for their school.

You earlier mentioned "Let's be rational. There are a lot of emotional arguments, but we need some rational thinking and some leadership." Is it rational that 93% of a group does not know what's in their student's best interest? Glad to know it's so obvious to outsiders like yourself
(oh, and district brass) that they're getting a "smokin' deal".

The buzz on Sealth has been good, but they've been lied to and mislead plenty already. Disagree if you must but don't add hyperbole and insults to their intelligence. Who is charging the emotional environment here now with these claims?

dan dempsey said...

Charlie said.....
..I agree that this is a leadership issue. Of course, leadership is about getting people to follow you willingly. We haven't seen any of that.

What a concept.

Centralized autocratic erratic illogical decision making on a regular basis that uses skewed biased data to explain things.

Looks like we won't be seeing people willingly following this board anytime soon.