Claremont Insider: The Mountain Labored and Brought Forth a Mouse

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Mountain Labored and Brought Forth a Mouse

Or, CUSD Still Playin' "Hide the Ball"

The Establishment finally came out with its much-ballyhooed List of Projects for Measure CL. This so-called "project list" is breathtaking in what it so obviously tries to hide from the voting public. In a few words, there is NOTHING there.

Attentive readers may recall that two weeks ago the Courier published Q and A article with the Bond Support and Promotion Committee, Bill Fox, Lee Jackman, and Mike Seder.

Even though Proposition 39, the law allowing this bond to go forward under the 55% threshold rules, requires that the July 22 ballot resolution by the school board be accompanied by a specific list of projects, well, there was nothing like a specific list. We commented on that issue in an earlier post.

Board member Jeff Stark opined at the July 22 School Board meeting that it was quite premature to expect a list; they needed to get a bond resolution first.

OK, but then the August 14 number of the Courier came out with the aforementioned article.

Courier: What are the specific projects and the estimated costs for each project?

Mr. Fox: "This project list is something that the district has been working on for a couple of years now. And this project list is something that our team--a committee within our team--is working on and narrowing down. So it's not ready to go out to the public yet because we've pared down a list that was $165 million to $95 million and we really are looking at what items on that list will reach the most children in the district."

There was a lame squawk about no project list in the August 18 Courier letters section.

In the meantime, the Mountain labored.

The August 25 number of the Courier contained a letter from Claremont teacher Dave Nemer castigating those with the impatience and impertinence to want some answers. He wrote in part:

Meanwhile, several recent letters to the editor have been critical of our school district because of the upcoming bond issue...The negativity expressed in the letters is unwarranted and based on little understanding of the facts involved.

The details of the bond plan have not been publicized yet, but naysayers have already denounced the plan anyway, preferring their preconceived judgments to informed reasoning...

Before we launch into impassioned debate about the new bond, it would behoove all combatants to wait until the details are announced.. Then we could proceed with a discussion based on actual information rather than ignorance and preconceived conclusions, for a change.

And still the Mountain labored but properly chastised, we waited patiently.

Finally, on August 28, teased by a 36-point all-caps headline on Page 1, above the fold, "NOW THE DETAILS", came what we all were waiting for.

Well, no.

The Courier didn't actually publicize the list, but we have it here. For ease of reading, we've broken it into two parts: the table proper followed by the notes. Click on the images to enlarge.

click images to enlarge

click images to enlarge

The money paragraph in the Courier article--in fact the only paragraph with actual cost estimates, reads as follows: "The current plan for the $96 million bond is to apply the funds in 4 main categories: repair and modernization ($48,412,886), technology ($22,189,862), sustainability ($14,395,562) and debt elimination ($10,000,000). The numbers are approximate figures representing an ongoing plan of spending."

That's it? No cost estimates? No numbers showing the balance among schools? Nothing other than a bunch of check marks? Where are the metrics? How do we measure performance? What is the District actually planning to do?

From the Courier:

Estimates for individual items on the project list were unavailable. Mr. Fox said the estimates for each section were based on looking at the needs of the Claremont schools.

"A estimate [sic] of each item would be done after the bond has passed," he pointed out. "There would need to be architects and project managers that would have to be hired by the district to come out. [Does this guy really talk this way? Re-read the last sentence. We have quoted it correctly. "There would need to be come out" ???] That is a very costly step and the district would have to use part of the bond money to do that."

So this is the mouse the Mountain labored over: Wait until the bond passes and we will tell you then.

We actually think this spreadsheet had to have come from a version that at one time had numbers in the grid, and like a clumsy FBI-redacted document the author or committee scrubbed the page of any incriminating information. Really, does it make any sense to have a grid, with "totals" column, and subtotals placed just above each group, and precision to eight significant figures, if a prior version didn't have numbers where all we have now are check marks?

We guess the committee, the school district, and the consultants don't really believe all that much in transparency.

By the way, when searching for the author of the "project list", whether it was Bill Fox, or Lisa Shoemaker (the head of the CUSD business office), or Terry Nichols, the Superintendent, or ???, we found an interesting fact. In the Adobe PDF "Properties" the author is saved. And who authored this masterwork?

Look at what we found:

And who is Jared Boigon? CUSD's high priced communications consultant. The priorities are not even set by the committee, they are set by a consultant in San Francisco! Either that or he is the World's Most Expensive Committee Secretary! Mr. Boigon is a Partner at TBWB Strategies--Public Consensus; Winning Propositions. He's not an educator nor a finance guy nor even a construction expert. He's a political hack. Read here about his getting his mother elected to the Denver City Council.

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The report can be found on the supporters' website, here.

The version that was up as this post was written is displayed below:
Bond 2010 Site Detail 08-26 FINAL

The image of Fox, Jackman, and Seder is from the Claremont Courier.