Trustees question Measure G management

Board members call for more investigation before moving ahead on big construction plans

The Mountain View Whisman School District's board of trustees is prioritizing projects funded by the $198 million Measure G bond. But some members of the board have reservations about the way the process is moving forward.

At a recent special study session, held Feb. 28, the board listened to a presentation from Todd Lee of Greystone West Company, the construction management firm hired by the district to oversee all Measure G projects. Board members examined information collected and compiled from a series of meetings in which parents, teachers, students and the community at large were asked to identify projects they would like to see the district take on.

Projects most favored by those who attended these meetings include new classrooms, better technology infrastructure, paths and walkways, more open and green space, a greater focus on science, technology and math learning, and a stronger arts program.

After the presentation, new board members Christopher Chiang, Steven Nelson and William Lambert all expressed concern that they still did not have all the information they needed to make prudent decisions about what the district's priorities should be in spending Measure G's $198 million most effectively.

The meeting signaled a change from what was once a board that usually asked only a few, simple clarifying questions of administration and contractors during meetings. Since the election of the three new members in November, it has turned into a board that pushes back with regularity.

Chiang said that he would like to see the district do more research beyond the local community.

"Before we commit ourselves, I think that it would be good for us to see what our options are," Chiang told the Voice. "My discomfort on the priorities go back to the community wish list. Until the community knows the full realm of what is possible, the list isn't complete."

Chiang said he would like to see the district look to other districts throughout the state and all over the country, to see what best practices have been adopted in other regions. He said he wouldn't feel comfortable directing the disbursement of Measure G funds without making such an effort.

Nelson, who has long complained that there was insufficient community input in the lead up to these meetings, renewed his critique by calling for more community outreach. He also said the list of potential Measure G projects presented to the board was too broad for him to make any kind of informed recommendation.

Lambert noted that he was disappointed by the low turnout at the series of community meetings, held in February. He wondered how the district could increase turnout at such meetings in the future.

Community member Greg Coladonato had an answer: tell parents that such meetings are mandatory.

In response to the concerns raised by the board, MVWSD Superintendent Craig Goldman asked the trustees to listen to the recommendations made by the Measure G project management team.

"We've hired these people to help lead us through the process," Goldman said, defending the work the team has done, as well as defending the district's community outreach efforts. "We have vigorously worked to engage the community," he said, noting that while it may seem that things aren't moving the way the trustees had anticipated, that the process is "just beginning."

Lee also cautioned that the board members seemed to be "getting too far down in the weeds," noting that the process was still in its early days and that all he was looking for was for board members to help hone the list of potential projects. He also said there would be opportunities to continue interfacing with the community as Measure G projects go forward.

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3 people like this
Posted by Albee
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The Board is right to push back. Anyone old enough to remember the debacle that was the Palo Alto bond a number of years ago will be grateful that these Board members are not just robo-signers. In response to Todd Lee's "weeds" remark, better deal with weeds now than try to fight through the jungle later.

4 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm

You CANNOT make meeting mandatory. It is easy to say you want community input, but frankly, the community does not care that much...until they don't like something. There was LOTS & LOTS of opportunties and ways to give input.

I do agree it should not be "robo-signing", but I also think that we do not want this to take years & years. Parents said YES to Measure G, and they do expect to see some results.

MVHS already has a swimming pool, and the Science rooms are close to being done. (I am sure Los Altos High also has equally great improvements, but I don't know first-hand) Hasn't it only been a year? Or is it 2 years?

It is great to say to look at best practices, but I am sure you can multi-task. Choose some that you KNOW are going to be needed, and look at the best practices at the same time.

3 people like this
Posted by MVWSD Parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Why not send an online survey to parents and school staff for input? List the possible priorities and ask them to rank these? If you really want o reach out and get input this is one way to do it.

3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 10, 2013 at 10:48 am

"Why not send an online survey to parents and school staff for input? List the possible priorities and ask them to rank these? If you really want o reach out and get input this is one way to do it."

The problem with an online survey is that the Superintendent will actually GET the parent input that he says he wants but history has shown that he consistently has dismissed. He already knows exactly how he wants to spend the money. Far more convenient for the district to schedule the parent input meetings during vacation week when many families are out of town.

THANK GOODNESS we finally have board members who can do more than nod, smile, and rubber stamp everything the district office wants.

Hey, here's a radical idea...maybe we could ask the TEACHERS what they need and want?

3 people like this
Posted by Julianne
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm

A survey sounds like a great idea. Especially one that can be filled out by parents and teachers on-line. But I agree that the results of such a survey is probably the last thing the district or the developer wants. I too am glad that the new school board is breaking the tradition of simply being a rubber stamp.

3 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

At the Study session both architects spoke about the process for gathering teacher input. I worry about more community input since neither parents nor community members mentioned new science labs specifically. Several Crittenden science teachers apparently listed new labs first.

3 people like this
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I can only imagine Mr. Coladonato was kidding when he said to make meetings mandatory.

I am glad to see trustees taking their jobs seriously. It needs to be productive though. Can't just be a roadblock to be a roadblock. I'm not saying that's what happening here.

I do wish the community could attend more meetings but if we attended all the meetings all these districts, cities, counties, and states held we'd be at three meetings a night every night of the week.

3 people like this
Posted by Interested observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2013 at 3:16 pm

It's disturbing to read that some community members, and Trustee Nelson in particular, appear to want or need an "adversarial" relationship between the Board and the superintendent. They are both on the same side or should be - not opposite sides - working in the best interests of all the students. It is not the Board's job to micro-manage the district. One only needs to look at Los Altos/Bullis or the East Side Union School District to see how destructive adversarial relationships can be in a school district and how they can eventually negatively impact the instructional program, drive good teachers, classified staff, and administrative staff away.

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Here is some good things the Administration HAS done (IMO). Had some recent input meetings (5), has an on-line survey (including Spanish), [also, at least at Graham, 2 separate cycles of teacher input]. The high school district is a standard of some of the very best practices - program manager selection before bond, small investments so build (money saving solar system) can be 'shovel ready' within a few months of citizen approval. A very concise, detailed priority and project list.

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm

IMO, as I can understand a full accounting of projects and a list of priority projects, also remember with such a small amount of money. What projects are worthy and what will have to wait, how do we decide that. I mean Science Labs are great, so is Art Labs, but then again the need for modern buildings, and better student space (non classroo,).

3 people like this
Posted by toxic waste
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Isn't this in the area where all the concern is about toxic waste? Has anyone done any sampling around Slater school?

3 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I attended part of the EPA neighborhood meeting in No. Whisman. Slater site is outside of any TCE problem study area. Whisman is in a new study area, but none of the tested areas nearby have any increased TCE concentrations (PPB, parts per billion in the groundwater). No other MVWSD owned property is nearby.

@Garrett - those are good questions! IMO it is the prerogative of the Board, as the elected policy making representatives of the whole community, to balance those 'worthies.' A couple of the new Bd. have recent teaching experience.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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