Surprising stall on school projects
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.