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Flood shuts down OUSD headquarters

Well, 2013 is not off to the best start for the OUSD administration. Here’s a slightly modified report I just filed:

A flood — apparently caused by a tap left on overnight — shut down the Oakland school district’s four-story administrative headquarters today. The roughly 150 employees who report there will have to work elsewhere for the rest of the week, and Wednesday’s school board meeting will be held at the newly rebuilt La Escuelita Elementary School across the street.

The problem appears to have started in the custodian’s closet, gushing three gallons of water a minute overnight until the swampy mess was discovered at 6 a.m. Tuesday, said OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

The water damaged some equipment, as well as the structure of the already-decaying building at 1025 Second Avenue that houses the superintendent and the human resources and payroll departments, among others.

“It’s going to take a few days to make it inhabitable again,” Flint said.

Flint said he believed the water was left on accidentally.

Employees on Tuesday morning received an email to stay home, Flint said, and most received the message in time.

Flint said customer service departments, such as HR, will temporarily be housed somewhere else. By early Tuesday afternoon, those contingency plans hadn’t been determined.

Hopefully no one has any HR emergencies today! I’ll post more information about relocated offices when it comes in.

Katy Murphy

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

  • coding error

    Happy New Year!
    I think Tony Smith should propose a district-wide, consultant-supported task force to revise the situation of district taps and then reach consensus on what to do. Better, 5 or 6 task forces. However, don´t expect attendance to be high, nor the decisions to be different than what was already planned…

  • Nextset

    I remember when public buildings commonly had night watchmen. You don’t see them much anymore. Too Bad. They were honest jobs. I am aware of other overnight flooding in large public buildings that also would have been avoided if the previous practice of night watchmen were retained.

    They would also check workers into and out of the building after hours and on weekends and could walk ladies to their cars at night.

  • Livegreen

    Nah! I believe in conspiracies. OUSD left the tap flowing so they could gotta hold of soma that Meeasure J $$$!

    :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/timothy.terry.397 Tim Terry

    I just hope Smith doesn’t use this as an excuse to close more schools.

    The district approved $4 Million dollars in private contracts this month alone. This does not include money from grants. As the corporate school reformers continue to skim more and more wealth out of our public education system, long time employees (including janitors) will find it harder to find the motivation to inspire. Expect more cost cutting and unattended faucets.

  • OUSD Parent

    $4M in private contracts? For real?

  • OUSD Parent

    The janitor must of been high.

  • livegreen

    Tim, Since you’re not spelling out what those $4m in contracts are for or who they’re going to it’s hard to take you seriously. Can we assume that those contracts are for consultants, service providers (arts, etc.), and others both at Schools and Central? If at School Sights, what’s wrong with them? If not, which ones are a problem?

    Contracts being provided at school sights are not going out of the school system…they’re being provided AT the public schools. Furthermore they were approved by SSC’s which include Priniciples, Parents AND Teachers. And these have nothing to do with “corporate school reformers”. (Indeed many School Sight contractors are former or even continuing teachers).

    So specifically, which of these private contracts are the ones the “corporate school reformers” use to “skim more and more wealth out of our public eduction system”?

  • https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0An-_0z7cuXXmdC10MW5fOVBQWU1ZWlllZWJUN1BsNWc Tim Terry

    Hi Livegreen, I got the numbers from last evenings (Jan 10, 2013) OUSD Agenda. It’s all there. Thanks for making me type it up but I found the “it’s hard to take you seriously” a bit insulting. See this google spreadsheet or look at the agenda.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0An-_0z7cuXXmdC10MW5fOVBQWU1ZWlllZWJUN1BsNWc

    I am revising the $4M down to $3,870,877. This is only for January! Estimate out 12 months and we have $46,450,524 being contracted out to for-profit firms and individuals which results in the extraction of wealth from the district, most often by decreasing teacher pay and skimming off money that could be better spent on increasing our common core as a district, ie. well paid teachers and staff.

    This has everything to do with part of the “corporate school reformers” plan of making the district run more like a business and the attack on union workers.

  • OUSD Parent

    Why would OUSD hire Bishop O’Dowd as an outside contractor for almost $7,000 for a math improvement plan? That seems random.

    A lot of money is paid to outside consultants for special education and crisis intervention. Is there any way to find out if this is consistent with other urban districts?

  • Marcia

    From a quick look at the list it’s quite evident that many of the organizational grantees are nonprofits that provide great services to Oakland kids and struggle to keep their heads above water. So, Tim Terry, why do you claim they’re “for-profit” firms that are “extracting wealth from the district”? I’m not expressing any opinion as to whether these contracts are appropriate, merely weighing in that such name-calling is not helpful.

    I’ve found that often–not always, but often–criticism of “outside consultants” seems much less warranted once one learns what the consultants are actually doing.

  • J.R.
  • OUSD Parent

    Thanks, Marcia. But I’m still curious about Bishop O’Dowd?

  • livegreen

    Tim, I had a good idea where you’re finding these. I’ll repeat my central point (similar to Marcia’s) since just posting a link doesn’t address it:

    Contracts being provided at school sights are not going out of the school system…they’re being provided AT the public schools. Furthermore they were approved by SSC’s which include Priniciples, Parents AND Teachers. And these have nothing to do with “corporate school reformers”. (Indeed many School Sight contractors are former or even current teachers”.

    I really don’t understand how spending money IN our traditional school sights, APPROVED by the school sight councils, has anything to do with ” corporate school reformers continue to skim more and more wealth out of our public education system.”

  • livegreen

    Also to my original Question to you, it seems many of the programs are for our traditional schools but (to your point) SOME of this private spending is for or to Charter schools.

    I am curious why so much OUSD money is goig to Charter school contractors…The most unseemly is OUSD paying Aspire to learn how to work with Aspire…???

    It would b nice to understand more about how Charter budgets are funded &/or intermingled with District or Public funding. Does anybody have a link that better explains this? Or Katy do you have a previous exposé on this topic?

    Thank you…

  • https://www.facebook.com/timothy.terry.397 Tim Terry

    My concern is more about who is providing the services more than who is receiving them. You are looking at contracting from only one side of the equation. First of all, management costs often increase, not decrease, with contracting out. Indirect or hidden costs, costs for writing, evaluating, monitoring, staffing and supervising the contract are expenses the district must pay in addition to contracted service. Typically, indirect expenses average an additional 20% of the “bottom line” of the contract.

    Private contractors are less accountable to the public and the school board. They are not required to open their records or decision-making process to the public, and are usually not covered by open meeting laws or freedom of information acts. There is also the potential for fraud and waste that often come with outsourcing these services. Lax screening requirements of contractors can put the public at risk. Look at the huge waste of money, time and resources we had in 2012 over the failure of the district to properly supervise the American Indian Charter School.

    Privatization hurts local and state economies. When we contract-out it exports taxpayer dollars from employees and communities to organizations often headquartered out of the City of Oakland. We then lose public sector jobs with family-supporting wages and benefits. The alternative is to improve delivery of public services through partnership with front line workers’.

    School districts have saved money and improved services by relying on the ideas, experience and commitment of experienced workers, actively involving them in restructuring through joint efforts. If we spend as much on contracts for every month in 2013 as we did in January, which is $3.8M that would be $45.6M. This equates to 702 district positions ($50K salary a year with 30% benefits) to do all the art, intervention counseling, special education and other needs of Oakland’s children. The school is not only in the community; it must be of the community.

    Oakland Unified School District is a common public trust; we need to make sure we do not circumvent constitutional and democratic accountability measures by merging with the private sector and marketplace. Finding solutions in a public space emphasizes accountability, voice, transparency, rules and claims through reasoning that goes beyond the self. This speaks to our common ethics and values. We must never be seen as abandoning the public arena in the management of our schools.

  • https://www.facebook.com/timothy.terry.397 Tim Terry

    Each dollar is a taxpayer dollar so we should have a very good reason to spend it.
    However, by pointing out how much we are spending on private contractors I am not challenging the $3.8M in contracts issued in January. As you say the School Site Council’s including principals, parents and teachers are determining these expenditures along with the democratically elected school board of our best and brightest as determined by the overwhelming support of the voters of Oakland this past November.

    But if I could just choose just one of the 87 contracts this month (and in the spirit of Randy Shandobil’s investigation report 15 years ago – see J.R. link above) it would have to be the $48K stolen from the minds of Oakland’s starving children this month and given to K Street Consultants, a high priced public relations consultant for the superintendent to receive policy advice. Why do we need to pay a private consultant $90,000 a year to tell us what our public policies are or to tell the policy makers what they should be.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Tim Terry:

    One of my issues is that there should be a law against public governing boards spending any of the public’s money for lobbying. That the Oakland School Board spends education dollars for lobbying is, I believe, wrong.

    Besides K Street lthe Oakland School Board votes pay for lobbying in Washington D.C. I don’t care whether lobbying is cost effective, I believe it should be unlawful for public governing bodies.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nomikins

    Why is the nutritional consultant lady getting over $100K in one month?