Thursday, January 16, 2014

Planning Deferred: Direction Needed


After attending the CUSD board meeting on June 26, one could easily ask if the trustees and the district administrators are realistically planning and preparing for the future; for an economy (and budget) that will continue to seriously and rapidly decline.

The superintendent has submitted his own name as the project manager for the construction of the performing arts center (along with Mike Merrill and Ric Stit) none of whom have any experience in managing a large-scale building project (or building in general). One could easily think (or consider) … if these administrators have enough time to act as construction project managers, then they have too much time, and we are paying them way too much for their current positions. If this project ever comes to reality there will be a need for a project manager; previous projects (without project managers) have not gone well—the pool at Calaveras HS and the turf field at Toyon Middle School. However, school administrators, with no background or experience in commercial building or construction, should not play the part of project managers; the construction company would surely take advantage (financially) of their lack of knowledge and experience.

Unfortunately, even with severe financial uncertainty, CUSD has put the performing arts center on track to be a corner stone building project (making use of the remaining bond money …. and keeping promises to those who supported the idea of a performing arts center--as the ultimate reason for acquiring the bond). The likelihood, however, of a performing arts center is very suspect: there really isn’t enough money to maintain it, let alone to build it.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Merrill: “We have significant difficulty maintaining the facilities we already have.” May 22, 2012— "To Be or Not to Be"

Furthermore, the reality is that there will probably be no one to perform at (or in) the performing arts center. The discussion came up during the board meeting concerning what programs would have to be cut as budgets and funds continue to be depleted. Should there be a list, a strategic plan, or cuts across the board? Unfortunately, we all know what will be at the top of the cut list: fine arts programs, like band, choir, drama, and art. The Athletic programs will probably withstand the first and original cuts; they have always had protection over fine arts programs.

The logic, then, is this:
if the funds aren’t there to build it (or maintain it),
and the fine arts programs won’t exist to actually use it ….
Why waste community time, money ($1.2 million), and energy to chase after it?

Rather than a performing arts center, why not invest (time, money, and energy) into the current issues at hand; issues that effect our students, teachers, and support staff on a daily basis:

  1. A cafeteria/kitchen facility at Toyon Middle School (so students will no longer have to wait in line in the rain to get their food).
  2. Replace aged portables at Jenny Lind Elementary with new classrooms (Cal/OSHA is currently investigating JLE for environmental issues and complaints primarily due to the aged portables)
  3. Repair stucco and roof damage on classroom buildings at JLE
  4. Renovate the JLE classroom overhangs (stucco buildings) to discourage Cliff Swallow nesting—currently a health and safety hazard.
  5. Renovate the Toyon Gym overhang to discourage Cliff Swallow nesting—currently a health and safety hazard.
  6. Renovate the Mokelumne Hill classroom buildings (overhangs with stucco dropping/separating from overhead) currently braced by 4x4s and a safety hazard.
True leadership would invest in day to day (functional) projects that maintain CUSD as a safe, healthy, and viable learning institution. A strategic plan for the future needs to be in place; and it needs to be made public. Right now it seems like the plan is to wait and see how bad things get … and then (in the chaos of the moment) decide what should be the best and appropriate thing to do. True leaders don’t wait for the catastrophic storm to come to them--forcing decisions to be made off the cuff and in a panic. True leaders plan ahead; they have strategic plans already in place to weather any and all fast approaching storms. The ultimate catastrophe will probably not be the storm, but rather the lack of planning prior to the storm.

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