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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Breaking News - Head of Facilities Leaving

Fred Stephens, long-time director of district facilities, is leaving the district by the end of the month. I will be kind of sad to see Mr. Stephens go because I always felt he cared about the district even if he was not always able to see the buildings get the care they needed. It was not announced where he is going or what he will be doing. Bill Martin who is currently the head of BEX projects will be interim director.

There is a bit of mystery about this resignation. Just last week Mr. Stephens had an argument in the district headquarters parking lot with an employee in his department. The police had to be called to escort the employee from the premises. The mystery is that this employee was overseeing the program that the recent state audit called out (the Small Business Development program).

(To review, the district, based on Board policy, has a program to help small business owners make bids on district capital projects. This is in conjunction with other public entities. I will make note that I see nothing in the policy - H50.01 - that says anything about training.

The state audit said that the district was within its rights to have the program BUT that it had to be for projects directly relating to the district. The program gives training and counseling on how to do bids and, as it turns out, the majority of people taking the program don't submit bids to SPS. So it's free training. And, the auditor said the district must pay money back that it used for training on non-SPS projects. That this program has spent nearly $2M in two years should give everyone pause. That's a lot of money for a non-academic program from the Facilities Department when our facilities need so much maintenance. I could see spending $50k a year but $1M? Something seems off.)

Apparently this employee was allegedly in possession of a check from another school district that he was not supposed to have. This is what may have led to his firing and the subsequent argument with Mr. Stephens.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have heard that Fred is headed to bigger and better things in DC.

Anonymous said...

I heard he is going to work for that employee he had the argument with.

kprugman said...

That's really crazy. Never heard of a facilities department running an SBA capital projects procurement training program with a $2 million bottom-line. haha. Are you pulling our legs? Some audit...Of course this is the only state a district can spend $300 per sf for an elementary schooL. Must be the rain!

kprugman said...

Bigger and better usually means more expense and less paperwork. Don't need to leave behind any paper trails for people to follow. $2 million spent on training contractors how to bid for public projects and meanwhile parents are paying for remedial math classes at Sylvan. It takes a village to raise a child, but only a well-connected school board to raze a district.

Anonymous said...

Leaving would no doubt lead to a promotion. I'm sure all kids benefited from it. Success for all!

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa:
"And, the auditor said the district must pay money back that it used for training on non-SPS projects. That this program has spent nearly $2M in two years..."

Where will the district get the 2 million? Who do they pay it to?
Kathy

kprugman said...

That would depend...the state?! Here's what our board members said when we caught them doling out money to their friends - you elected us and we were stupid....so its the voters responsibility. The ethics of your publicly elected 'servants' is unconsionable.

What Washington needs is updating its capital project policies and procedures manual so that's its aligned with other states. That's not very difficult if your AG would make capital funding HIS priority.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay you Anonymous people, pick a name. That's the rule and any more Anonymous comments and they will be deleted.

To answer the question about the money. Some of that money probably doesn't have to be paid back because the training was directly related to SPS projects that received bids. The rest of it is a bit murky and no, I don't know where they'll get the money.

That they are likely to give the teachers more money should tell you that our district plays fast and loose with their talk about having no money. Keep that in mind come levy time.

Michael said...

@kprugman: The state does not set the capital projects policies and procedures for schools in this state. There may be an accounting manual for the state, but school districts follow a different manual. And what is this about the AG?

kprugman said...

That is not true - there are regulations that school boards have to follow with regard to capital expenditures.

I have copies of those regulations from three states. In Washington you might just as well not have any regulation.

If you compare Washington's laws to Alaska or California - Washington falls far below the current standard. The person I worked with was a former project engineer for Jack Welch and she wrote a manual for their contractors, so they wouldn't get fined for violating their public works contracts. Nobody had to send them to school at the expense of taxpayers.

We attempted to get our school board to adopt stricter standards and it was tabled by a county architect no less (they are a bunch of clodhoppers). He also dumped a fly ash incinerator project into the laps of taxpayers (got a free trip to Italy) and nothing ever came of that either.

I doubt your district has ever done a needs assessment for any of its capital projects...haha...why? when they don't have to.

Do they define one in broad terms and establish a framework through ...
1. project justification
2. project classification
3. project occupants
4. possible project locations

gee...maybe Washington lawmakers ought to think about updating their laws. I'd say Washington's local control was out of control.

kprugman said...

The RCW is supposed to be the template the district uses to build its procedure manual. Otherwise, why write a manual at all. The regulations in your state are so backward, districts can write any manual they want. Which PAC contributes the most money to your AG's campaign fund? No use calling the kettle black. My curse is binding.

kprugman said...

Here's our board's coming solution for some farmland they bought from a developer with the 'assinine' intent of building a school (29 acres in a flood zone at $100k per acre with non-voter approved bonds. In other words, duck ponds. Let's sell it to the county, so 'they' can build a jailhouse!!

kprugman said...

Here's our board's coming solution for some farmland they bought from a developer with the 'assinine' intent of building a school (29 acres in a flood zone at $100k per acre with non-voter approved bonds. In other words, duck ponds. Let's sell it to the county, so 'they' can build a jailhouse!!

Anonymous said...

Our board members (unlike yours) get to talking at the local canteen when you ply them with enough booze. They speak quite proud of what they've accomplished, including having one of the lowest performing schools in the entire state - most of whom are Latino. Adequacy, not equity. is the current rule of law. I hope they all drive themselves into a ditch this winter, a deep one.

kprugman said...

My bad..don't nix me (kprugman) making the comments above me. I have trouble seeing the keys (my age shows).

kprugman said...

You might object, but although no laws have yet to be broken in your state, I would seriously question the wisdom of certain officials. They have the ethics and morals of serial rapists and in another day, we would have made them eat their words.