Problem Solving, School Board Style

by Mark Scaramella, December 16, 2010

The Anderson Valley School Board seems to have satisfied itself that the complaints of Ernie Pardini, football coach John Toohey and other local football advocates, presented at the stormy October Board meeting, have been resolved. According to High School Principal Jim Tomlin regarding the proposal to field a standard 11-man team, “Athletic Director, Mr. Pinoli, did not have the authority to allow the team to compete as an 11-man team. This was, and is, a league rule decided by the principals and athletic directors in order to keep football alive in all of our league’s small schools.

Nine man teams do not currently have a playoff in the NCS. We did start researching this last year and making contacts with other California Athletic Sections including Central Coast, Northern and San Joaquin (schools/league that we had heard had 9-man playoffs). We hope to have eight-man playoffs for next year. Several years ago, Mr. Pinoli was honored as California State high school Athletic Director of the Year. He is preeminent as an Athletic Director, the de facto Assistant CMC Commissioner and the 'go to' guy for all other NCS athletic directors to seek advice/assistance from re: sports, scheduling, officiating, etc.

Each team in the league schedule this year had a ‘bye’ week. The AD asked the coaches if he should try to schedule a game and was told ‘No.’ The other two weeks the two schools dropped their varsity teams during the season. In football, you can't just pick up games. There are big limitations in football scheduling. CIF rule 1905 limits the number of games to two in an 8-day period. The NCS rule 18.108H is even tougher, stating that ‘a student shall not be in uniform or participate for more than one school football team of whatsoever classification each week.’ A week defined as Monday-Saturday.

“2. Playing surface of the football field at the fairgrounds — the fair has been informed that their field is dangerously unacceptable. The District has no control over the conditions of the fairground field. We have all attempted to fill holes as much as possible but do not have the resources either financially or people to re-sod the field. We were informed by soccer officials last year that we would not be able to host playoff games there because of the condition of the field.

“3. Health and safety issues of the locker room — Board member Erica Lemons has purchased and set up drying racks in the locker room to help facilitate the storage of the football equipment. This temporary fix should help until the locker rooms construction can take place. [Superintendent] J.R. [Collins] has been working behind the scenes for years in order to get state funding to repair the locker room.”

We understand that the "temporary fix” referred to here consisted of dripping Gorilla Glue into the leaky faucets to seal them off, which was followed by the installation of portable shelves for the storage of football gear.

* * *

From the minutes of last October’s School Board meeting: “Superintendent Collins announced that all bonds had been sold and that there was $6.3 million now in the county treasury. The next step is going out for bid for architects and Phase 1 of the Bond project. Advertising for request for qualifications from architects is being handled by Jim Patton.”

The reference is to the $15.25 million-plus school bond measure passed by local voters last year to do maybe $5 million in needed repairs of existing school structures. No estimates of the proposed work were sub-mitted with the bond proposal which, by the way, was "facilitated" by an Emeryville firm specializing in funny, er, school bond finance.

Mark Scaramella, which is me, had proposed that the Oversight Committee on which he sits be involved the hiring of the architect and the hiring of project manager.

There was some agreement with this proposal in October and, after I wrote a long letter to Collins and Bond Oversight Committee Chair William Sterling to suggest that, a half-hearted attempt was made to schedule a meeting on November 30. But that meeting fell apart when so many committee members were unavailable on Tuesday evening that it had to be postponed. The next scheduled meeting of the Oversight Committee is now set for late January, after several important steps are planned by the District’s special “Superintendent’s Select Committee” (which for some reason includes Mr. Sterling but no one else from the Oversight Committee), and the School Board.

Last week Superintendent Collins reported that the District has already placed advertisements (in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat) seeking qualified construction project architects. Collins, who is not an architect or an engineer or carpenter, and his "select" committee plan to screen the 14 responses they got and set up interviews in January next year. These interviews, presumably, will be conducted by the Superintendent's Select Committee which consists of Collins, Sterling, Marti Bradford, eternal president of the Anderson Valley School Board, and a couple other school staffers.

They Select Ones have also advertised for a construction manager in the Press Democrat, nevermind that Anderson Valley contains any number of experienced, trustworthy contractors. At present, the plan is to screen those responses and conduct interviews in January. Theoretically, the construction manager will be selected before the architect so that the construction manager can participate in selection of the architect.

Collins said last Thursday night, however, that all four of the construction management responses so far received were from companies, not individuals, and none of them were from Mendocino County. Some concern was expressed about what the construction manager’s role should be, how much accounting and financial management will be required, how much of the management can be handled by the construction contractor’s own management system, how much time will have to be spent on site, and if a construction management company could hire a local person as their on-site representative.

Neither Sterling nor any other oversight committee members attended the school board meeting although the school board, a 5-0 creation of Superintendent Collins, makes all the bond decisions.

A construction manager should be resident in the Valley during the multi-year, phased construction project, but it’s not clear if the firms that bid the job will provide that. Collins also said that he was concerned that hiring a construction management firm with all their typical overhead costs and wide range of services might well end up costing more than the District is willing to pay.

This reporter suggested that the District might try advertising for a construction manager closer to home if they expect to find someone who will reside in the Val-ley during construction.

To get a better understanding of what the Board intends to do on the Bond project we gave the Board a short list of questions:

• Is the “Superintendent’s Select Committee” (referred to in a recent edition of “School News”) subject to the Brown Act? If not, why not?

• Has a baseline been established for the Bond Project? (I.e., a formal list of specific projects and sub-projects to be funded which clearly fall within the scope of the bond, changes for which formal board and oversight committee approval would be required?

• What is the relationship between the District’s deferred maintenance plan and the bond project work?

• Is there a provision in the architect bid package which requires prospective bidder-architects to describe how they plan to make sure that any design problems or changes (aka potential “constructive changes”) that arise during construction are dealt with in a timely manner so that they do not disrupt the construction contractor’s schedule and so that any funds that may be necessary to fix the problem can be planned for properly?

• Has the project been subdivided into phases? If so, what are they? Will the architect be the same for all of them? Will the contractor be the same? Or will options be used?

• What as-built drawings will the District provide to the successful bidder-architect and for which buildings (i.e., which those that are to be remodeled as opposed to left alone or demolished/replaced)? Have they been reviewed for accuracy?

Superintendent Collins chose to try to respond to the question about the relationship between deferred maintenance and the bond project by saying that, of course, there is an overlap. He insisted that there was not a problem, however. (And as the meeting progressed it was clear that at least for now some deferred maintenance money will be used to fix immediate water leaks in a few buildings.)

District Budget Specialist Patti Wilson gave the Board an update on the District’s budget status indicating that this year’s budget isn't as bad as previously anticipated; a few teachers have been hired back with some newly received federal stimulus dollars. Ms. Wilson explained that the cryptically named “reduction restoration reserve” is a pot of almost $200k which was created when 1. The State cut the District’s budget, then 2. The State restored some of the cuts, but 3. The State may take it back again to help balance the newly discovered deeper budget hole. The “RRR” is tracked separately on the expectation that it may have to be given back to the state. We think they should just spend it before the State takes it back, but it’s probably not as simple as that.

Two unnamed students who had been previously expelled were reinstated in closed session by a 4-1 vote with Trustee Grace Espinoza dissenting.

Student Board Representative Lily Leighton reported that the best news coming out of the recently completed Redwood Classic basketball tournament was that “Branson didn’t win.” (Branson had won seven previous Classics, but Pineville squeaked by the perennial powerhouse this year, creating hope that the Branson Dynasty is ending.) Ms. Leighton also praised this year's high school basketball team for one of their best performances in a Classic in years.

Your faithful reporter submitted a Brown act complaint concerning the board's decision to set the superintendent’s management objectives in closed session. We think the setting of objectives should be done in public; while the evaluation against those objectives can be done in closed session. Chair Bradford, eternal Beria to the Superintendent's Stalin, said that the District still believes that the setting of the Superintendent’s objectives is part of his closed session evaluation, and therefore they will consult their attorneys before answering. (A waste of time since the attorneys are paid to tell the Board what the Board wants to hear which, in this case, is that the Superintendent's pay and the nebulous responsibilities accompanying them are none of the public's business. The public is supposed to turn over the money and go away. A reputably run public entity would want public input as part of the objective setting process.)

From a poorly worded and un-bylined “AVUSD Safe and Healthy Schools Committee” report, November 30, 2010: “High School Discipline Committee and individual teachers are developing posters to hang around the school and include in the sub and vote. Evaluated the process in a second meeting and they felt that this is still an issue — the adults are the weak link. The teachers will practice and calibrate on dress code and other infractions but the dress code is hard to enforce. [Principal] Jim [Tomlin] says there is too much ‘kid input’ and it is the adults' responsibility. Cleavage is also the issue for students and some staff. School uniforms is a possible solution. Discipline is our opportunity to teach not punish.”

In a time when attractive young women present themselves as fetchingly as Napoleonic courtesans, it's a wonder their male classmates can be kept from ravishing them in the hallways and focus on their studies, not their classmates.

And there was this “Sports Update” from high school Principal Jim Tomlin: “Football will be eight-man next year. Athletic Director Robert Pinoli has pulled some strings with the CIF and we hope to have at least several of the state’s other athletic sections in the playoffs next year. They're hoping to wind up with a statewide divisional eight-man championship playoff. Good job, Robert!”

Good job, Jim!

Good job, JR!

Good job, Marti!

Good job, Dick!

Good Job, Bill!

Goodbye $15.2 million!

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