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Why isnt board focusing on safety?
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I appreciate the article Tuesday concerning the questioning of the contract process for Measure G. At the December Manteca Unified School District board meeting Mr. Salas shared his concerns about fairness and legal issues with closed door bidding possibly excluding local subcontractors. This is one of the downsides of the lease/leaseback no bid process that MUSD is using for the $56.4 million modernization of five elementary schools.
The California School Board Association describes lease/leaseback as: “… a contract by which a district owns a piece of property and leases it for a nominal amount to an entity (typically a contractor) ... . At the end of the lease, the school and site become property of the district. This delivery method does not require the selection of the lowest responsible bidder … .” The State Allocation Board questions this process “…because they are never truly financed by the contractor and skirt the state Public Contract Code, which is intended to eliminate favoritism, fraud and corruption.”
Recently the California Supreme Court let stand the Davis case which questions the use of lease/leaseback in Fresno Unified when a district has sufficient funding for a project. The prevailing attorney, Mr. Carlin, commented on the decision “… it requires competitive bidding for any lease-leaseback arrangement that is not a genuine lease or does not include bona fide contractor financing.”
In addition to these concerns with the continued risky use of lease/leasebacks are broader questions concerning Measure G. Health and safety issues were the focus of the campaign for its narrow passage. The Master Facility plan identifies $35 million in health and safety issues at all of MUSD’s school sites. Instead of keeping to this focus MUSD has changed to a focus on “Modernization” stating that a “Worst First” approach prioritizes Golden West Elementary, Lathrop Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Sequoia Elementary, and Shasta Elementary.
According to the Master Facility plan “Health and Safety First” would prioritize elementary sites differently: Lathrop at $7M, August Knodt at $4.8M, Stella Brockman at $4.5M, Brock Elliot at $2.6M, Great Valley Annex at $1.8M, Joshua Cowell at $1.4M, New Haven at $1.2M, McParland at $1.1M, and Veritas at $1.1M. East Union would be the priority among secondary sites at $1.4M.
I think that our Board needs to ensure transparency and accountability in the process of spending our taxes. Among its principal roles is: “… provide leadership and citizen oversight of the District.” Trustees should join other districts in reviewing policies regarding open competitive bidding, outreach and priority for local companies and even the possibility of hiring recent graduates as apprentices. In my opinion our Board needs to prioritize student safety and using local contractors over a focus on “Modernization”.

Léo Bennett-Cauchon