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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

State Auditor to Perform Performance Audit on District Capital Program

I was reading the BEX Oversight Committee meeting minutes for June 13, 2008 and came upon this:

"The State is hiring a consultant to conduct a performance audit on the capital program."

This, of course, comes as no surprise to me. For a long time, I have felt this program had serious oversight problems. However, I haven't been able to verify through the Auditor's office if this will also include fraud, waste or abuse within its scope.

One issue is the lack of credibility within the department. For example, despite the fact that even on the BEX III campaign materials it says that most projects were on-time and on-budget (which in itself is a change because there was a stubborn insistence that ALL BEX projects had been on-time and on-budget), in the May minutes of the Hale BDT it says "There are no current anticipated budget overruns on any BEX II or III projects." That statement (by Don Gilmore) begs the question of how Facilities would explain the budget on Garfield's project. Is anyone within your department seriously going to make the claim that Garfield had no budget overruns? I'm sure the people at Secondary BOC would be interested in the answer.

Another issue that I found recently is in the BEX Committee meeting minutes of Jan '08 where there is discussion about Denny/Sealth. There was a discussion of the 3 options for Denny/Sealth with discussion comments; here is the last one. It states:

"There is no guarantee that Sealth would benefit from BEX IV, if the work in BEX III was delayed. Other schools are older and needier and will be renovated first."

I read that sentence to mean that there are older and needier schools than Sealth. What else could it possibly mean?

Really? Because you see when I came out against the BEX III list, my point was that the buildings on the list were NOT the oldest and neediest buildings. And I was told, by staff, yes, these are the buildings that need it most. But looking at that statement it is clear that the district is playing fast and loose. It is what I have always believed, namely, that Facilities has its own goals and will say anything in order to justify their plans even it it means later contradicting themselves.

Also, I attended that meeting and it is reflected in the minutes. However, I raised some concerns during that meeting that generated some discussion. Absolutely none of it is reflected in the minutes. Meeting minutes are not supposed to be verbatim and there is generally not public discussion at BEX Committee meetings (but I was encouraged to speak up by a member) but if there is discussion within the Committee over an issue it should be reflected in the minutes.

Again, playing fast and loose with fact is not going to help this department.

I feel for Dr. Goodloe-Johnson because she is making a huge effort to move this district forward and yet, we stay mired in the past because of issues like this where a department stubbornly refuses - for whatever reason - to be transparent, clear and honest in its dealings with the public.

6 comments:

Michael said...

Melissa says, "However, I haven't been able to verify through the Auditor's office if this will also include fraud, waste or abuse within its scope."

I can't tell you how I know this, but every state auditor's office audit looks for fraud, waste, and abuse. If such things are noticed (discovered) during a performance audit, they are pursued and reported. So, yes, this performance audit will include looking for fraud, waste, and abuse. I hear that the performance auditor (contractor) is the same folks who audited the Port of Seattle.

Sounds like the auditor needs to do more public outreach on their mission.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had wondered about audit looking into fraud, waste or abuse because I didn't know what a performance audit covered. I looked up the definition and it said it might cover those issues. I talked with someone at the State Auditor's office and they said yes, they will look for those things in the course of the overall audit.

schoolblewit said...

Will the Audit include bullying of neighborhoods by forcing things down their throat that they don't want like Ingraham?

Roy Smith said...

schoolblewit,

Can you be more specific about what got forced down whose throat with regard to Ingraham? I live close to Ingraham, and have heard little controversy emanating from there, so I am curious.

Thanks.

schoolblewit said...

Hi Roy,
Ingraham High is where the School District has been doing piece-meal projects for 10 years. Athletic Field, Field lights--benefit leagues (all owned by district). Library--so small the computers barely fit, Science building that only has a new front, new awnings and maybe 4 new classrooms and a huge entry. And now they want to cut down the west forest to build an addition that will include a day light basement and courtyards.

If all these projects had been done at one time the cost would have been less, piecemealing allows for separate SEPA's thus environmental checks not necessary at the same level. Nor are public meetings.

One reason some neighbors have been told the new addition has to go on the end of the building instead of the North lawn is because that is where the electricity ends. Another is that it will make lock downs easier.

How do you lock down a school that is all windows? How do you lock down a school, that anyone walking by can shoot out all the windows?

Where is the safety for the students?

I don't mind getting rid of the portables, math module..or even adding an addition, I do mind when it adds nothing to the school except more glass, less safety.

Building on the north lawn allows for more closure on the windows, a courtyard in the center with lights and bricks toward the outside. Might cost a little more, but at least you can't shoot out the windows, and have a bunch of dead students in less than 5 minutes.

There is so many really bad areas around Ingraham look at it, you can see rebar on the new building, wasted space by 1/2 story library--but a nice courtyard. Holes in walls, caulking falling out of windows, trees in courtyards and around field dying.

The appeal to not cut down the trees is the reason there has actually been mowing of the grass this year. Oh and the appeal has been DNS' by the School District appeal hearing examiner again.

Why build an addition that will not gain any space? How many students will come from the South or Central area for the IB program? Especially when Denny/Sealth will have one. And the students will be on buses for at least 1 hour in the morning transfer down town and then at least 1 hour or more in the afternoon same transfer?

I also was told by a board member that students are unable to walk from one end of Ingraham to the Math module without getting "lost" along the way. IT was to far to keep their interest so students wandered off. I can't wait until these students get real jobs.

I was told by a board member that the portables are used by disable students who can't get in and out of them by themselves to get to restrooms in the main building. And this is why the portables need to be replaced. (many portables have new steps and walkways).

I want to know if it is a violation of ADA laws to trap disable students in classrooms? Is it a violation of ADA laws to make it so the Disable do not have access to restrooms? Why aren't the disable students in classes in the main building, certainly that would be able to be arranged, instead of a law suit.

Bad decisions abound at Ingraham, and more are about to take place unless more people, including parents get involved in checking all this out.

Think about safety at that school, ask about it--you are told there are security camera's.

Realize how easy it is to get to I-5 from the school, are security camera's going to stop some shooter?

They couldn't stop this years graffiti artist..who decorated all the windows. Even the police didn't arrive in time to catch them.

Why cut down the forest, on the West end, which has one of the highest brick walls and the most protection from the street to put in a glass front, class rooms, forum daylight basement and courtyard?

Oh, the value engineering report suggested better windows, change in the roof and better awnings to lower energy costs..the school district said it didn't fit their plans.

And I think any student can take a test to get a IB status on their High School Diploma, but I haven't been able to verify that, can anyone else?

They also want 70 street parking spots around the school on Ashworth and 135th. The principle assures us that he can keep the kids from parking in them.

There may be future piece meal additions into 2014 if the school gets BEXIV funds.Mr. Gillmore doesn't believe there is a BEX IV committee in progress on determining need for $$, at least that is what he told the hearing examinger at the appeal for SEPA Ingraham.

And there is rumor that they are revamping the cafeteria.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I can't address all that Schoolblewit brings up. I know that the neighborhood has been unhappy with the reasoning and notification about cutting down the forest.

On the issue of cameras, no, they won't stop bullets. But that's not the function which, to my mind, is two-fold. One, to try to track vandalism and/or theft in the school. Their presence likely deters some of those two activities. Two, if a serious incident is occurring in the school, the police need as much information as possible before they go in. Knowing how many people are involved, where they are and if any students are hurt really helps. Could the cameras be disabled? Sure, but that would take time to disable all of them and it's not likely that someone with violent tendencies is going to take that time.

IB is a complete program; it's not like an AP course where you can go take the test without the class.

The district, so I am told, is committed to renovating every single high school (well, maybe not, Nova, the high school stepchild). So Ingraham and Rainier Beach would be the last to be renovated although Rainier Beach hasn't got to the student numbers to justify it. So, it seems like whatever else Ingraham would need to be considered "renovated", they would be next on BEX IV. Of course, that will leave Sealth as fixed-up (not really renovated)but unlikely to get anything else for another 30+ years.