Sunday, March 16, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Monday, March 17th
The wearing o' the Green.  Happy St. Patrick's Day.

To note: signups for public testimony for the School Board meeting start at 8 am this morning.

Tuesday, March 18th
Audit&Finance Meeting from 4:30-6:30 p.m.  Agenda

Wednesday, March 19th
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 p.m.  Agenda.
I see a LOT of audit update items here that I am unclear about -might be worth attending.

Items of interest:  

- the winning bid for the work for Lincoln comes in at $828k.  What's interesting is that the district decided it needed wainscoting in all the new toilet rooms.  What's more interesting is the variance in cost to do it with the company bidding highest for the overall cost bidding the wainscoting at the lowest cost ($972k for overall, $3500 for wainscoting) and the winning bid at $812k putting in the wainscoting at the highest additional price, $16k.  The average cost for the wainscoting was about $9500.  How these people get these wild swings in cost is hard to fathom.

- approval of the Board of Directors Code of Conduct.  A couple of oddities here. 

They leave out one of their primary jobs which is to oversee the Superintendent's work.  The document talks about "striving" for a positive working relationship and respecting the superintendent's authority but there does not seem to be recognition that THEY are to oversee the Superintendent's work.  They do say "monitoring district performance" but that's vague. 

Additionally, there is this line:  "...understand that a motion of Censure may be brought for a significantly egregious violation." (of the Code of Conduct).  The original wording said, "an egregious violation."  I looked up "egregious" and here are its synonyms:

shocking, appalling, terrible, awful, horrendous, frightful, atrocious, abominable, abhorrent, outrageous;

So what a "significantly egregious" violation is, I don't know, given its definition. 

- approval of Genesee Hill Elementary Value Engineering Report - I'm just going on record here to say I do not believe that the rebuild plans for GH are good and the design is wrong for the footprint it is to sit on.  

- Intro item of amending Policy  3130 on Student Assignment and Enrollment.  My issue is not with the item details itself - it's that you can read the entire Action Report and not know what this issue is about (you'd have to read to attachment to find that out).  I am seeing, more and more, staff putting out BARs that do NOT clearly and transparently explain - to the Board and the public - what it is that staff is doing.  Shades of the Goodloe-Johnson years.

- Race to the Top Project Deep Dive 3 - boy, that sounds positively James Bond.  What could it be?  Oh, it's just accepting $312 in RTTT money as part of the Road Map project.  This would be for Emerson Elementary which "is currently the last level one school in the SE region.   

This sounds good but I do note a number of community partnerships.  I wonder how much student data will go out the door because of that number.

- Bless the parents at McDonald International school for again committing to trying to raise $400k for their language immersion IAs.  I cannot believe they do this year after year.  I actually never hear the district itself saying a public thank-you for this.   Ditto for JSIS which is trying to raise $450k.

It is harsh to say but I give the district itself (save Karen Kodoma who works very hard for international schools) very little credit for the success of these schools.  That credit rests with the principals, staff and parents of these schools who go above and beyond.    These schools would NOT be what they are without these massive in-school efforts.

Thursday, March 20th
Operations Committee Meeting from 4:30 pm-6:30 pm.  No agenda yet available.

Community Meeting Central Region: Strategic Plan from 6:30-8:30 pm at Garfield High School.
More on this in a separate thread but I found the Hale meeting, while informative in listening to parents, a yawner from staff.  Unless you want to sit around and listen to other parents complain OR you actually plan to go and challenge staff on specific issues, I'd skip it.  Not worth your time.

There are no Community Meetings with directors this Saturday the 22nd.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

the winning bid for the work for Lincoln comes in at $828k. What's interesting is that the district decided it needed wainscoting in all the new toilet rooms. What's more interesting is the variance in cost to do it with the company bidding highest for the overall cost bidding the wainscoting at the lowest cost ($972k for overall, $3500 for wainscoting) and the winning bid at $812k putting in the wainscoting at the highest additional price, $16k. The average cost for the wainscoting was about $9500. How these people get these wild swings in cost is hard to fathom.


It's not really that hard. There are a lot of variables that we don't see in these line items. Did the estimator estimate each discrete line item, or did they take the project as an aggregated whole as far as labor hours go? Did the estimator tighten up the base bid in order to make money on the adds and changes, or vice versa? Which GC firms solicited bids from subcontractors for the work, which ones didn't, and did those firms all solicit the work from the same subcontractors? Are those subcontractors corporations or are they sole-proprietorships? All of those things could cause this large of a swing in a certain line item. As a subcontractor that bids to other subcontractors, I see this all the time.

--FremontDad

Jet City mom said...

My grandma taught me to watch the pennies & the dollars will take care of themselves.
SPS has shown time and again that they have no clue what that means, and aren't interested in making the best use of what is essentially, other peoples money.

mirmac1 said...

The variations in bid items is a strategy bidders use. They'll unbalance the bid to either ensure they're low on the base bid; or to place more $$ on alternates they're sure will become part of the contract.

Charlie Mas said...

The base bid for a school district project shrinks in meaning as the District adds change orders. And the District has a history of adding lots and lots of change orders.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The wainscoting was a complete add-on (which you can see from the links). That's why it the variation seemed odd (or obvious) to me.

Anonymous said...

To amplify what mirmac1 said a bit, contractors will submit an unbalanced bid knowing in advance what add-ons they are likely to upsell the client, in this case the district. This is risky from the contractor's point of view, however I think it's less risky when the client does not adequately maintain their infrastructure. From the District's point of view it might be a short term win of sorts if capital funding is easier to source than funding for
maintenance.

--FremontDad

Anonymous said...

One last caveat to what I said in my comment above: does our district fall prey to what I've outlined above? I have no idea, I'm just guessing as I've seen it done elsewhere.

--FremontDad

Melissa Westbrook said...

"This is risky from the contractor's point of view, however I think it's less risky when the client does not adequately maintain their infrastructure. From the District's point of view it might be a short term win of sorts if capital funding is easier to source than funding for
maintenance."

Fremont Dad, you are probably right.

It's fairly well-known that the district doesn't keep up its buildings and yes, I would suspect that since the capital dollars are more protected than maintenance dollars, well, contractors probably know that as well.