Inside Baseball oops School Board – emails 3,4,5,6

Number 1

Harry,

Thanks for speaking with me on the referenced matter.

Through various sources, I achieved a greater understanding of the situation. It is known #709 is responsible for providing education to Woodland Hills residents. At some earlier time, #709 agreed to pay Woodland Hills rent of $150,000+/- per annum for use of Cobb school (owned by Woodland Hills) to do so. Because of the aging building’s increased maintenance costs, etc. (the building owner’s responsibility) Woodland Hills reportedly requested annual rent be increased to $300,000+/-. ISD #709 balked and Woodland Hills threatened (as part of the negotiations) to seek charter school linkage. This, of course, created great consternation as the district might lose its per pupil $$$ reimbursement and teachers would be shifted elsewhere or, perhaps cut back. So, #709 suggested the alternate location of Rockridge be provided with the district renovating the building to accommodate Woodland Hills student population needs. In addition to feasibility/engineering study cost, reports suggest renovation costs may approach $2.5 million dollars. Since the district is obligated to provide these students an education, Woodland Hills is not obligated to participate in such costs nor pay any type of compensation. (Will they?) Any question of student added transportation cost isn’t even in the equation.

It is of interest to note, the former Cobb school, being vacated by Woodland Hills students, is being purchased by a Montessori school who had previously offered to buy Rockridge. So ISD#709 policy to not sell to another educator, not only lost the opportunity to dispose of a “shuttered” building but will possibly require $2.5 million in district expenditures. At the same time, the districts attempt to thwart competition by refusing to sell to a perceived educational competitor simply moved that entity to another location from which it will expand its student population. Does this sound like a solid ISD#709 business decision? Sounds like a taxpayer loss and disservice to community expectations.

So, it appears from available information, to maintain Woodland Hills per student $$$ reimbursement (with no guarantee of W.H. not having future linkage with a charter school) and faculty positions, #709 is potentially expending $2.5 million to reactivate Rockridge school. Under current debt, where will these funds be coming from? Or is it simply a matter of again going back to the taxpayer. You suggested this topic had not been fully vetted at the board, therefore you were absent reasonably knowledge of the transaction. Perhaps this provides some insight for your further discovery.

Harry, your filing for reelection was noted in today’s paper. Quite frankly, the whole school reorganizational process is a mess. Several of the buildings could have been sold save for the board’s non compete policy. Several educational entities are planning and will soon establish their own buildings. ISD#709 can never, through refusal to sell school buildings, limit educational expansion within the community. The diocese is even reorganizing to accommodate educational expansion. It does appear, however, the expectation of being able to continually tap the taxpayer prevails. I hope you can bring some reasonable discussion on these issues to the campaign. Positive changes would even be better.

Number 2, My 1st reply:

J___

You have added one new and distressing bit of info. I wondered about the purchaser of the Cobb school. If true that’s annoying. Three of us were willing to sell Rockridge to Many Rivers. And yes now we will have to pay for a fix up. I can’t blame Woodland Hills. They only began looking at Charters when we told them not to expect more from us.

I finally talked to our CFO Hassler late Wed before boarding a plane for Florida. I passed on your suggestion that we make an agreement with Woodland Hills on a long term rental arrangement similar to a bond reimbursement scheme. Doug agreed that this would be a smart thing to pursue.

Doug of course is new and unfamiliar with the old arrengement to pay WH for the Cobb school that they bought from us. 20 years ago we were in a better financial situation to cover the rental of our former building. Now, not so much. Still, it’s hard to justify short changing their student population even to the extent of letting them use the unsold Rockridge.

I had hoped that Many Rivers would hold out for Nettleton until after this election. There is no Nettleton deal at present that is guaranteed with the developers of that Kenwood site. and Many Rivers would have paid us one and a half times as much as the Kenwood developers MAY eventually pay us. We had a bird in the hand but not now.

Rosie is still an impediment to a sale of one of our schools to a “competitor.” However, we may not get any other chance for such a sale unless Edison is waiting for a change on the Board.

Harry

J’s follow up email Number 3:

Harry,
Thank you for your thoughtful response. This matter can be distilled to the following. ISD#709 has Rockridge, a shuttered school, for sale and is incurring continued holding cost. Several potential buyers for the property were denied. One due to politics of future use (conversion to housing which the city sorely needs but objected to by the neighbors). Second, purchase offer by Montessori for educational purpose. This deal denied by ISD#709 board due to policy against selling to another educator as doing so may expand educational competition. So, Montessori later moves to acquire a privately-owned property wherein they have an opportunity to continue and expand their present program. In doing so, third party students (ISD#709 responsibility) are displaced from the to be acquired private property. Recognizing continuing educational responsibility for the displaced third party students, ISD#709 plans to expend upward of $2.5 million dollars to renovate Rockridge to accommodate these students. All agree these students have entitlement to an education, and it is ISD#709’s responsibility to do so. The base question, however, remains; Is the District’s policy to not sell a vacant school to another educator valid? Who is best served by such a policy? In this instance, through acquisition of another property Montessori continues its educational mission in a now expandable venue. A “shuttered” school now remains in the Districts inventory at a potential renovation cost of $2.5 million. By all accounts, the District stated purpose of the policy is refutable and taxpayers are again the losers.

My second reply email, Number 4

J___

During the push for the Red Plan the school board was barely aware of its policies either by choice or through ignorance. Construction required bids. They didn’t bother with them.

I was appalled at the time when the attorney I hired while on the Board a few years earlier explained (when I took the District to court) that policy was of no consequence compared to state statute.

This makes some sense. It only takes a simple majority to change policy – unless it’s a bylaw which requires a 2/3rds vote to change. This means that it only takes a simple majority to ignore policy. Such a vote is virtually the same thing as a vote to suspend policy.

5 board members proceeded to put this current chain of events into effect although – no doubt – unwittingly. Their justification was that the “no sale” policy was sacred. This was simply an excuse to hide behind. Ironically, the Red Plan boards didn’t treat policy as sacred when it got in their way.

It’s a new ethos at work.

Harry