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A closer look at MDUSD Measure C project list for Ygnacio Valley High

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 at 10:38 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Measure C Projects lists

Measure C Projects lists

A group of neighbors who live around Ygnacio Valley High have hired attorney Craig Sherman to voice their objections to the field improvement project slated for a vote tonight. Here is a link to the letter Sherman sent the board last month: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceaDBLbVUyNXo1TE0/edit?usp=sharing

In part, the letter states that the group is disappointed with the accelerated development of 2010 Measure C projects list without true community involvement. It alleges that the district now appears to be “…conjuring up flamboyant and over-the-top school facility projects different from the truly needed and disclosed science centers and other safety, renovation, and repairs promised and obligated by the original and voted-on 2010 Measure C and Proposition 39 project list.”

As has been noted in this blog before, the Measure C projects list was extremely hastily developed. In fact, the list was not completed until AFTER the board voted March 9, 2010 on the ballot language. Here’s a link to the materials provided at the time of the vote: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=2266&mtgId=264

At the time, Pete Pedersen was scrambling to come up with a 2010 Measure C projects list by reviewing all of the projects identified for the 2002 Measure C and updating a facilities master plan that had been developed in 2006. He compiled a list of 1,669 projects at all school sites that would have cost nearly $441 million to complete, not including cost escalations, contingencies, etc. The projects were ranked 1 to 3 in order of priority, with 1 being highest and 3 being lowest.

Here is a link to the list that was developed for Ygnacio Valley High: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKcecW5iNEVNZlFpUnM/edit?usp=sharing

This list includes stadium lighting as the lowest priority, with an estimated 2010 cost of $576,500. It also lists a PA system as another lowest ranked priority, with an estimated 2010 cost of $4,580. The total YVHS list includes 37 items estimated to cost nearly $25 million.

Pedersen sent memos to every principal in the district on March 16, 2010, asking them to review the priority lists and let him know by March 30 of any changes. Here is a link to the response sent by then-Principal Carolyn Plath: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceMFhpWlFmUUQ2Y3M/edit?usp=sharing

Plath listed a Performing Arts Center as a first priority, lights and bleachers for the stadium as a second priority and remodeling and reconfiguring the office and library as a third priority. On the original list, an auditorim theater was ranked as a 3, the same as the stadium lighting and PA system. There was no mention of remodeling and reconfiguring the office and library.

After Pedersen received all of the requests from principals, he created the “2010 Facilities Master Plan Update/Proposed Bond Profile: 2010 Facilities Improvement Plan,” dated April 2010. It included 817 items districtwide estimated to cost about $202.2 million, not including cost escalation, contingencies, etc.

Here is the link to the final Ygnacio Valley High projects list in that plan: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceRThtTTl5N00xWWM/edit?usp=sharing

This list includes 14 priority 1 items estimated to cost nearly $6.6 million. It does not include field lighting or a PA system. It also doesn’t include Plath’s top priority performing arts center or her third priority reconfiguration of the office and library.

Pedersen’s plan included estimated costs for all of the projects. However, the district merely listed the projects online without the costs. It never posted the entire plan online. At the time, I told Pedersen that it would help show transparency if the district would post the costs as well. He said then-Superintendent Steven Lawrence instructed him not to post the entire plan, saying it was too big.

Later, when then-bond oversight committee member Alicia Minyen questioned the vagueness of the projects list, the district’s bond counsel told the group that it was permissible to add projects to the list that were not identified in the ballot materials. This district has relied on this legal opinion as it has pushed forward with projects that were not originally identified.

In 2010-11, the Contra Costa County Grand Jury found that the district’s 2010 bond Measure C lacked transparency. Here is a link to that report, which mainly focused on the bond financing and other fiscal issues: http://www.cc-courts.org/_data/n_0038/resources/live/rpt1102.pdf

Here is the district’s response to the Grand Jury, which was prepared by then-General Counsel Greg Rolen. It was never publicly discussed at an open board meeting: http://www.cc-courts.org/_data/n_0038/resources/live/rpt1102r1.pdf

I have also received an e-mail from a Northgate High student questioning why the district is spending so much money on a new pool for that school. She believes the tennis courts should be improved and says she doesn’t remember the school or district ever asking for student input on its project list.

I have also heard that some students at Northgate are unhappy with the location of the planned aquatics center because it could prevent them from going outside the building and escaping the crowded corridors in the facility during the day.

When the Measure C campaign committee polled potential voters, it found far less support for new pools and field improvements than it did for replacing leaky roofs and updating science labs. New pools and field lights were not mentioned on campaign materials, but were pursued after voters approved the bond measure.

As the district seeks to become more transparent, newly appointed Superintendent Nellie Meyer is trying to review its history to find out what went wrong. When I met with her to discuss her challenges, I mentioned the Measure C bond election as one example of the district’s lack of transparency. She raised her eyebrows in suprise and said: “That’s a pretty big example!”

Do you believe the district developed its Measure C projects list in a transparent way that included the community?

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