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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Looking Hard at Facilities Issues Costs the District More Money

From the Seattle Times comes this story about how much money it is costing to review the Facilities department.  Sigh. Yes, it wasn't just the Silas Potter-connected programs but the whole thing is getting a good look-see.  From the article:

While the district's initial consulting contract was $25,000, the scope of work quickly grew. The district extended the contract three times for varying amounts that now total $162,000, according to records obtained by The Seattle Times under the state's public records act.

I have to wonder, out of all the things the Times could investigate, how they picked this one but fine.

It's a great thing, frankly, because ALL of Facilities and Capital Projects should get this look.  It's disturbing to listen to Board Committee discussions on these topics and get worried about where the money is going. 

From the article:

The hiring of the consultants and the scope of their work indicate the department was more troubled than it appeared to be.

Pegi McEvoy, assistant superintendent of operations, described the consultants' mission in terms of a superhero rescue operation.

"We're fortunate to have a resource that can come in, put the cape on and help us out," said McEvoy, who was given responsibility for the department in March.

The guy hired, Doug Nichols, has shown himself to be a steady Eddie kind of guy, soft-spoken but smart.  If it gets us to a better place, it's money well-spent especially with continuing capacity management issues that are pressing us to fill our buildings.

Here's an example of his work:

In one case, McEvoy said, the consultants suggested changes in building specifications that could save the district millions of dollars on future construction. They also questioned the district's use of permanent portables, saying that, in some cases, leasing the portables would be a better option for dealing with fluctuating enrollments.

You know, I never heard any discussion about leasing portables - it was always about buying them.  

 Of course, there are always downsides to this stuff as we witness from the "job loss" of former Facilities head, Bill Martin:

Meanwhile, Martin, who had been promoted into the $142,000-a-year facilities position and then lost the job, continued working for the district for four more months.

That "continued working" was mostly sitting around.  I think they were worried about giving him much to do.  The article says he says his problems came from try to bring change to the Maintenance Department.  I seriously doubt that as much of what he said at Operations Ctm. meetings did happen (a new software system to track work orders, zone teams, etc).   Nope, it's that not fully disclosing stuff from a past job on his employment application that did him in.

This might be a slight tangent off for this news but it is facilities-related.

I attended the Operations Committee meeting on Thursday which, like many committee meetings had meandering discussions and less than specific news.  Alas, no one can raise their hand and ask questions so all I can do is report back and tell you that I will follow up.

There was a slight discussion about capacity management and it came up that Lowell at Lincoln will stay there two years.  There was agreement around the table that there was nowhere else for them to go.  So there's an "answer" to a question in a lot of parents' minds.  Is it official?  Somewhat.

Problem is, that they were scheduled to discuss SBOC and Nova leaving Meany so as to fix up Meany (for SBOC's new World School) and Mann (to put Nova back where it was previously).  THEY, too, are scheduled to go to Lincoln next fall.  BUT there was no mention of this during the discussion and I have to wonder how SBOC/Nova/Lowell at Lincoln will work.  (I'll just say that if I had to have any high school group(s) in with an elementary, it would be these two.  I'm just talking logistics.)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

L&L families have been hearing two years at Lincoln. What about the SBOC program that is supposed to be moving in next year? They have been pushed around a lot, too, but housing elementary and high school together will be problematic for a lot of people.

L&L family

Lori said...

L@L families have been told that a decision will be made in January, although I am relieved to hear what Melissa is reporting.

Yes, obviously, we all need to learn what the plans are for the high schools that were supposed to move in to Lincoln next year. But the thought of moving the APP program again next summer is honestly more than I can bear, and I'm sure I speak for a lot of families.

Perhaps readers of this blog don't understand the enormous effort that it took to pull this off by September. People are exhausted, and the work is not even entirely done. You just can't ask a group of parents and a school's administration to completely give up their summers and renovate a school in 6-8 weeks only to have to do it again the next year.

Moreover, if the district were to decide to split the program next year, we would then need to repeat the time-consuming process of creating yet another PTA from scratch. The PTA members who have pulled this off this summer are my heroes. Starting a PTA, getting 503(c) status, setting up the bank account, splitting the funds and doing the accounting for that, and on and on. It was an enormous job (and still is!).

The district needs to recognize the incredible, and dare I say unprecedented, amount of work that happened this summer. They simply can't risk burning out families by asking them to move again so soon.

Lori said...

and, sorry, just to clarify. I probably should have said that the highschools "are" supposed to move in, not "were" supposed to move in.

I have no idea if there is room or how it might work, but I want to learn more. I personally would not be opposed to sharing a space with high schoolers. And I don't want to see two groups pitted against each other over the Lincoln building.

So please don't interpret my last post to mean I don't empathize with the high schools and their need to find a temporary home or that I think the needs of APP trump their needs.

Charlie Mas said...

NOVA doesn't need a temporary home; they need a permanent one.

The school HAD a permanent home at the Horace Mann building. It wasn't perfect but it worked well enough. The district moved the school to Meany ostensibly to save money, but the cost of fixing up Meany to make it suitable for NOVA was higher than the cost of fixing up the Mann building would have been. The move made no sense.

The real reason that NOVA was moved to Meany was to block Summit from moving to Meany. Without a location for Summit, the District could rationalize closing the program.

Everyone is getting jerked around here: elementary APP, NOVA, S.B.O.C., the neighborhood program at Lowell, the folks who leased the Mann building, the taxpayers, and, while we're at it, TT Minor families, and the Hamlin-Robinson school.

And the School Board is to blame. They broke every promise to every group and they made horrible decisions every step of the way.

DaveDoc said...

I really don't want to see Ms . McEvoys' name in anything to do with the schools Facility Dept.!!! Does she know ANYTHING about maintenance? NO!!! She is a nurse. Would you like a carpenter making health decisions? If you do you may have mental health problems. It is time for the District to step up and have the proper people making the decisions that directly affect the taxpayers. Stop the deception just because it is handy. The camouflage is a joke. Also how is Bruce Skowyra heading up a Facilities Dept.? C'mon hire the right people.

Anonymous said...

The district laid off the best two Maintenance Management staff they had in years,Ed Heller and Marc Walsh, then hired on Bruce Skowrya and his friend Larry Gottas who have no maintenance background what so ever, now look at maintenance! Larry Gottas was hired over Marc Walsh because he had a degree in Psychology and was a personal friend of Bruce Skowrya who was also on the interview committee vs Walsh's 28 years of experience with the Seattle School District and his degree in Construction Management. Ed Heller was laid off because he wouldn't commit all of maintenance to the opening of Cleveland High School to make Fred Stevens look good.

Facilities is now run by fools from Lucy Morello on down, it's the bean counters leading the blind.

In The Know

Anonymous said...

is this irony?

this story is about the absolute worst of american management education - a bunch of bureaucrats with little to no incentive to make anything work better - and lots and lots of incentive to shut up and keep passing the buck and keep blaming the process - which they have no incentive to even think about fixing.

and dear right wingers - I'm not attacking the education bureaucracy - they've been trained by the schools of management who take all their baloney from that private sector which used to employ tens of millions of middle class working putzes, and which now employ snake oil charlatans making fat bank rolls while off shore workers make 5 or 15 bucks a week.

while we all run around with our hair on fire about waslhspemapeoc scores, the educators of our managers are the ones who should all be tossed out on their tails?

YouAreIT

AnotherL@Lfamily said...

I'm curious where/ from whom L@L families are hearing this information about staying at Lincoln for two years. We are at L@L, too, and haven't heard a thing. We've been pretty active, so I'm wondering what we are missing.

apparent said...

SNAPP@John Marshall Elementary on Ravenna Boulevard, 65th Street NE, I-5, Green Lake?

Anonymous said...

@ In the Know. Have you run a large capital program to be making such judgments about personnel. I read Doug helps other districts improve their capital programs, have vast experience. Is he ok with the personnel choices? Please let us know since you seem to have a lot of inside knowledge.

A friend of Seattle

L@L family said...

FYI to Non APP at Lincoln families. Two years plus has been made official:

"Dear Lowell Elementary families:

I hope you have all had a good start to the school year. I am writing to provide you with an update on several issues related to Lowell Elementary and future planning for programs and locations.

I am thankful to you for all the hard work that went into moving the APP program to Lincoln for this school year. We have heard from many in the community that moving the APP program again next summer would be very challenging following the hard work involved in the recent move. In addition, before decisions are made about the future location for APP, we need to take the time to complete a thoughtful process that engages all of the advanced learning communities. Lowell APP will therefore remain at Lincoln for the 2012-2013 school year. This two-year period will enable us to conduct a thorough planning process as we move towards decisions about the future of APP, Spectrum and other programs.

In order to begin the important work of working with our communities and planning the future of advanced learning, we will appoint an Advanced Learning Program and Facilities Advisory Committee in coming weeks. This committee will help the district assess advanced learning needs and options and then make facility recommendations. The committee will be comprised of designees from the APP Advisory Committee, Spectrum, PTSA, parents, principals and teachers. It will advise the district’s Capacity Management Advisory Committee, which is also being formed. Our website will be updated soon with information about the new committee and the process for appointing members.

Finally, we remain committed to ensuring we maintain a vibrant school at the Lowell site. We will be working with staff and families as we move forward to ensure we reach that goal.

I look forward to our work together on these important efforts.

Best Regards,

Noel Treat
Deputy Superintendent
Seattle Public Schools
206-252-0169"

Anonymous said...

About 6+ months ago the Maintenance department implemented a new Software program called Schooldude. Every maintenance employee has to use Work Order number 103 to track their time using this new program.

Well, I was contacted with this information, the TOTAL amount of time spent doing SCHOOLDUDE is over $186,000 labor hours.

I have to wonder how: "Management can JUSTIFY this".

HELP PLEASE !

-- TheOne