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Another facilities bond measure for Oakland schools?

Should the Oakland school district float a $475 million facilities bond measure in the November election? The Oakland school board might decide to do so on Wednesday night.

Here’s the short version of the possible ballot language that the school board will consider. Unlike a parcel tax, it would need just 55 percent of the vote to pass:

To repair, replace or construct restrooms, old plumbing, sewers, lighting, heating, portable classrooms, electrical systems, roofs, to address dry rot, and to bring existing buildings up to current safety standards; upgrade technology, science and computer labs; renovate,construct and equip classrooms; and improve energy efficiency; shall the Oakland Unified School District issue $475 million in bonds, with independent citizen oversight, no money for pensions or benefits, and all money for Oakland public schools.

That shortened version doesn’t mention community kitchens, though those are part of the project list in the full measure.

Here are the specific schools and campuses mentioned in the draft:

Washington campus (Sankofa Academy), Roosevelt Middle School, McClymonds High, Foster campus (site of new central kitchen/commissary), Fremont High, Glenview Elementary, Melrose Leadership Academy, Webster campus (childhood development center replacement), Greenleaf Elementary, Sobrante Park Elementary, Madison Middle.

A note on timing: As of late last week, there seemed to be some uncertainty among OUSD staff about whether this would be a first reading or a final vote; I got some clarification today from board President Jody London that the board could decide to vote on Wednesday, as I’d originally thought. Of course, the board might also discuss/amend the proposed language this week and take the final vote on June 27.

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Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Catherine

    As an Oakland citizen I would vote for the measure only if no district administrator, no school board member, no consultants and no union officials are on the committee. A financial and progress report must be posted monthly on a community accessible website including a “push” of a monthly status to anyone who requests it and all schedules are to be reported as well.

    The contractors doing the work are paid 100% of the bid amount if they come in early or on time and they are penalized 5% of the gross cost of the job for every week of over runs.

    Half of the oversight committee must be educated (Bachelor’s degree or higher) and be working in a business that employs people in Oakland; the other half of the committee would be parents and concerned citizens, No one on the committee can or their extended family – married or unmarried – can profit from the construction.

    We need to find and make ways to stop awarding contracts to friends and family members and inflating the cost of the work and taking out of the education expenditures of Oakland youth.

    If, at a minimum these conditions are not met, I will work tirelessly to defeat any proposed increase in taxes. If the conditions can be met, I will work equally tirelessly to help pass the measure.

    Oakland students needs above all others!

  • Observer

    Ditto what Catherine said, here here!

  • Oakland Teacher

    That description appears to benefit only a select group of students. We should be asking how those particular sites were chosen, and why those particular sites were chosen. The proposal seems to benefit a very small number of students.

    We already have one bond measure that is not properly overseen (Measure G which was passed in 2008), with multiple complaints filed about the lack of oversight of the $195 per parcel.

    There are less than 10 sites listed, one of which does not house students. I would guess there could be 100 schools total in OUSD. There are already several instances where facilities money was poured into a site and then that site was later recommended for closure or charter conversion.

    These questions must be answered and some real guarantees made before people are going to buy into this.

  • J.R.

    Catherine,
    If only that were possible in this reality. Corruption runs rampant where and when other peoples money is involved.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lHEPOwKA_k

    Watch and remember how things are done.

  • On the Fence

    My trust for OUSD is at an all time low. My first inclination is to soundly reject this bond request. I will continue to work by giving time and money to organizations where I have some faith that they will act in the interest of the student body and the teaching staff. My efforts may not serve to repair the facilities, but I am more concerned with the other aspects of schools that are ‘broken’, above and beyond the physical infrastructure.

  • Nextset

    This will be an interesting vote. And if it passes it will be an interesting bond offering because you’d have to be crazy to buy any municipal bond issued through Oakland. I’m sure the bond would sell to somebody – I wonder what the eventual rate would be. Even the PIGS are able to sell Bonds – they just have to pay above 6%. I wouldn’t buy a PIGS bond and I wouldn’t buy any California urban municipal bonds. Some people like to speculate though.

    CA and it’s municipalities are no longer investment quality. Junk bonds, more like it.

    Junk bonds do sell, they just have a higher rate.

    As far as the voters go, the benefit of the bonds passing is probably (seen to be) enough to justify the small costs on the property taxes. OUSD’s pacification policy towards blacks and browns is not seen as being a problem. It just kicks the can down the road. If you are planning to flee Oakland and California upon retirement or soon after, you can go with this.

    Brave New World.

  • J.R.

    “The Board of Education cannot determine the amount of bond proceeds available to be spent on each project, nor guarantee that the bonds will provide sufficient funds to allow completion of all bond projects. Completion of some projects may be subject to further government approvals by state officials and boards to local environmental review and to input from the public. For these reasons, inclusion of a project on the bond project list is not a guarantee that the project will be funded or completed”.

    Translation: The taxpayers and property owners will be repeatedly soaked, as is deemed necessary. If only taxpayers(the gainfully employed) and property owners could vote, this would never pass. Too much documented history of waste fraud and abuse.

  • Catherine

    “The Board of Education cannot determine the amount of bond proceeds available to be spent on each project, nor guarantee that the bonds will provide sufficient funds to allow completion of all bond projects. Completion of some projects may be subject to further government approvals by state officials and boards to local environmental review and to input from the public. For these reasons, inclusion of a project on the bond project list is not a guarantee that the project will be funded or completed”.

    This is exactly why I documented post #1.

    Piedmont instituted a property tax assessment to rebuild every one of the schools in their small district. There were interruptions to school personnel, students and neighbors. For the most part their projects came in on budget and on time. We should look at the way they handled their money and their projects and learn from their mistakes as well as their success.

  • Oaklandotter

    To respond to Oakland Teacher.” We should be asking how those particular sites were chosen, and why those particular sites were chosen?”
    OUSD process to draft its facilities master plan this time round was very organized and strived to a great deal of transparency. Detailed, consistent surveys of each school were conducted and are available for public viewing.
    Surveys and community meetings were held in each region.
    Kate has highlighted the Facilities Master Plan in earlier posts on this blog.
    I encourage people to look at current research and data not outdated fox news reports such as the one J.R. directed folks to on You Tube.
    I support this facilities bond measure. I will be walking door to door talking to my neighbors and Oakland voters to listen to their feedback and give them information about this bond measure. I hope other parents and teachers will join me.

  • J.R.

    Catherine,
    Excellent points, but unfortunately it seems as though OUSD uses LAUSD for a model of how things should be done. That’s all we need, to be LA unified north(sarcasm).

    http://www.fulldisclosure.net/Blogs/59.php

  • J.R.

    Oaklandotter,
    A point was being made that corruption, fraud waste and abuse(and underachievement) have always permeated certain school districts over time(that was the purpose and point to that). The facts are that OUSD is a heavily funded district relative to neighboring districts and yet we have low grad rates and low student achievement for the most part.

    http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2011/09/07/a-closer-look-at-spending-and-test-scores-in-east-bay-schools/#comments

  • Catherine

    Oaklandotter: I believe that IF the REAL GOAL was to upgrade the facilities and have COMPLETE transparency, use all funds wisely and fairly and for the benefit of students without any benefit to any person or family in power, then we would use a model for the money that has worked well rather than using the same boiler plate OUSD has used again and again. This boiler plate has eroded trust in district officials and literally taken money from student who need it most by not making use of every possible building dollar without consequence.

    Furthermore, there is little to no transparency in any OUSD project. Please GOOGLE PIEDMONT SCHOOLS UPGRADES to find the web sites, option to push monthly updates, complete records of cost overruns, under runs, contingencies, full plan, auditing firms and full plans issued BEFORE spending money. It is very, very different from the way OUSD behaves toward students and their families, education in general and money in particular.

  • livegreen

    I’m just amazed by the lack of want to build quality schools for our children. There are many many schools that have portables that are DECADES old. There are many buildings in state of disrepair. Yet when OUSD wants to do something about fixing the problems, many of you disregard the the needs of the students with vague general accusations that are not substantiated and cannot be responded to.

    Even if you did document them, they might be totally unrelated to facilities, or the needs our children have and right to go to updated and safe classrooms.

    Furthermore one of the reasons many families opt out of OUSD, besides academics, is facilities. That hits all of us: kids who are in Oakland, communities people move out of, real estate prices, our tax base, and all the services they are based on.

    Aren’t there various expressions for that? For one, it’s called “cutting off your nose despite your face.”

  • Catherine

    Livegreen: We are already paying property tax addition to repair and replace buildings. The problem is that the money is misspent. If you read the very first comment, I am willing to work to pass a measure, I just want to make sure that we stamp out the nepotism that is running amuck in OUSD.

    We do not have a proper accounting of the money citizens of Oakland have already invested. Bonded contractors that are parents have offered to come into schools and repair plumbing, fix roofs, paint classrooms and halls at no cost to the district – all have been declined.

    Redwood Heights has handicapped students – ramps were installed with push buttons to allow students to act with dignity and self-reliance, but do the push buttons work – NO – does the principal and the district officials, and even the school board know? YES.

    Some Oakland parents are quick to expect everyone in the city to allow the district to reach in our pockets without accountability. We have an $8 million deficit that is being worked on and could result in a greater loss if the state wants to come back in to oversee us – and if we don’t fix the mess in two months the state has the legal right to do so. The OUSD administration is not managing what they have – so let’s give them more.

    That is like saying someone with too much credit card debt just needs more credit rather than a budget or they’ll be kicked out of their home.

    Absolute power corrupts. We have seen it with the Deborah Edgerly and family fiasco, the financial irresponsibility of the school district that lead to the state takeover and the former Mayor, Ron Dellums $250,000+ IRS debt. Ask anyone in public service and you will find no one willing to accept responsibility – not the mayor, the school board, or the city council.

    Separate the administration from the money and you’ll have a face and a nose. Allow the status quo and I will fight to have any measure fail.

  • livegreen

    Catherine, You are speaking in such generalities and off topic that it’s almost impossible to answer. Edgerly and the City of Oakland? That’s not OUSD.

    To the OUSD portion, most of what you’re referring to is cost of operations and is not from bond money or construction. The State has been both cutting that, and what they haven’t cut they often delay for months. (The Dams are as much to blame for this as the Repos are…both are beholden to their respective sugar daddy’s…and that’s not the kids…).

  • Catherine

    Livegreen: You need to review your current property tax statement. You will see that we are paying for school improvements now. The money is not spent well.

    I bring up the city council because it is all linked. The Redwood Heights handicap access was to push through the last “urgent need” for funds. Lakeview was upgraded just in time for Tony and friends to move in over the summer – that is not helpful to students.

    Bonded volunteers have been working together with an “each one, reach one” with wealthier schools making needed repairs and improvements to other schools – they are stopped by district administrators because the district wants the control – but the plans and money are tied up in layers and layers of bureaucracy. The contractors know what needs to be done and they have the contacts to get plans approved through the state architect’s office. Yet, time and again the district has refused.

    This is not about building and repairing through a comprehensive plan, such as the one proposed in Piedmont. It is a piecemeal project by project with no thought as to whether the schools will even be open in the 20 – 25 year standard depreciation. Where is a plan with the buildings, the guarantee of the schools being operated by the district for district students? Where is the contract limitations for cost and time overruns? Where is the plan for accountability and reporting to the taxpayers and stakeholders monthly? I just do not see any of it in the plan.

    This is just not the proper way to go about rebuilding school facilities. Successful school districts have plans. Unsuccessful school districts present a plan similar to what we have been presented.

    Livegreen: I challenge you to do the research between school districts who have had similar populations as Oakland and have planned and upgraded successfully and those who have not – you will find that our plan falls in the “has not” column.

  • Nontcair

    Vote NO!

  • Michael-David Sasson

    OK. I get the distrust of OUSD. Corruption (perhaps only in the past). Closing neighborhood elementary schools. Intermittent apparent disdain by school board members for community concerns. “Participation” meetings organized by OUSD where community members seem to be asked only whether the deck on the Titanic should be painted green or blue.

    It’s frustrating. It makes me mad. Sometimes, it makes me cry.

    And I think every kid deserves a decent education with safe and adequate facilities. The only way that will happen is through OUSD flawed as it is.

    So, on this I’m voting yes and will encourage neighbors to do the same. And I’ll probably march with the families to Lakeview to demand the district do the right thing: see http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/i-support-the-lakeview-sit-in

  • SF2OAK

    Unfortunately I too am completely dismayed by OUSD & I haven’t even entered it yet but with child 1 approaching school age and the way the Lakeshore closure & increased catchment for Crocker without apparent foresight has been handled why should I support this, when I know we taxpayers will be paying much more than the value of what we might be getting. I also know a bit of history. It seems to me to be Like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown in a Peanuts strip.

  • livegreen

    Catherine, I get that your school has some required repairs and it is frustrating when it doesn’t get done. I also understand frustration with the bureaucracy. It takes a fight to get anything done in OUSD. But that is not necessarily because of corruption (which, btw, you have not substantiated). To me it’s more likely due to inefficiencies, OUSD being under resourced AND State funding cuts.

    Regarding how this Bond measure compares to the effectiveness of Piedmont’s? Give me a break. You’re comparing one of the wealthiest communities in the State with one of the poorest.

    Re. Property Taxes, I agree, we are overtaxed. I’m still upset how the City and Voters gutted Measure Y and gave us more crime while the City kept the money. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still happy I voted for Measure DD helping drastically improve Lake Merritt and it’s surroundings more beautiful and it’s streets safer. Not all property taxes or bonds are the same. And in the case of improving schools and making children safer, there’s actually a financial argument FOR improving schools.

    I’m not voting for any property taxes in Oakland because I don’t trust the City. But I AM going to vote for one that helps modernize schools, helps make them safer, and make them more inviting for families to return to OUSD. In turn this will only help the tax base, giving more resources to ALL our schools and city.

    Once again I understand and agree with the frustrations of dealing with OUSD. But voting against a bond measure that helps repair schools is not going to help get Redwood Heights repairs…in fact it will make sure there is LESS money for it. And it will make sure there is less money for other schools that are in much much worse situations.

  • livegreen

    Also Catherine, Can you elaborate on the situation you mention in #16 re Redwood Heights, and also the effort you mention re Bonded volunteers from wealthier schools helping others? I AM curious about these efforts and experience.

    BTW, I also do not understand OUSD closing Lakeview and then using it for an administrative building. It’s a bone headed move even if one accepted their logic that closing it saves money. Why do they even need the extra space and how does it help them save if it’s still o

  • livegreen

    Also Catherine, Can you elaborate on the situation you mention in #16 re Redwood Heights, and also the effort you mention re Bonded volunteers from wealthier schools helping others? I AM curious about these efforts and experience.

    BTW, I also do not understand OUSD closing Lakeview and then using it for an administrative building. It’s a bone headed move even if one accepted their logic that closing it saves money. Why do they even need the extra space for Administration? How does it help them save if it’s still being used?

    Even if it’s all needed, how about COMMUNICATION OUSD!!!

  • livegreen

    Sorry about #21 getting cut off…

  • Nontcair

    Public bond measures benefit the following special interests:

    (1) municipal bond firms poised to collect high underwriting fees

    (2) construction contractors poised to collect secure profit margins

    (3) union tradesmen poised to collect prevailing wages

    Once again we see public education being used as a political program to designed to enrich political donors.