Buried school board agendas

By Marsha Sutton

Although not very sexy, some items buried beneath the newsier issues on local school board agendas deserve at least fleeting attention.

Most have to do with money and policy, which may not be exciting but, at least for edu-philes, constitute the foundation for many of the stories that make the front page. How public money is allocated in education, and how school boards set priorities and make budget and policy decisions, is the basis for all the rest that flows from there.

In the Solana Beach School District, at its Sept. 12 meeting, the contract with superintendent Nancy Lynch was extended through June 30, 2016 and her salary was increased by 5 percent, to $170,000 annually, retroactive to July 1, 2013.

According to the board report, “This amount is reflective of the 5 percent increase in total compensation provided to certificated employees during the 2012-2013 school year.”

In the special education department, Xcite Steps received a contract not to exceed $9,000 for one student to receive intensive behavioral support, according to the board report. Another special education student will be receiving nursing services at the rate of $39 per hour, for an amount not to exceed $30,000, through a contract approved by the board with Dependable Nursing of Carlsbad. Both contracts are effective through June 30, 2014.

A change order for a contract with American Fence Company of San Marcos is to provide additional fencing at Solana Beach schools. The original contract went out to bid months ago and was awarded after a review of several firms responding to the Request for Proposals.

The original contract was for about $120,000 and with additions and changes is now at $146,000, as approved by the board Sept. 12.

This is legit and not a big deal, but it got me thinking about change orders, which occur when the scope of work expands after the contract has already been approved. So many contracts that are legally awarded through the RFP process end up with change orders approved later, and these change orders sometimes significantly increase the amount of the original contract. But no one re-bids on the new contracts because the contracts have already been awarded to one firm.

It’s a system that seems ripe for abuse and makes me wonder how many original bidders who were denied the work could have bid on the revised total project for a lesser amount than the firm that was given the contract. For those firms already selected, it can be a nice windfall to not have to rebid on the change orders and to be given additional work without worrying about competitive bids.

As the San Dieguito Union High School District proceeds with major construction and facility work through its Proposition AA bond money, paying more attention to the change orders might be worthwhile.

Also at the Sept. 12 meeting, a three-year contract with Apple Computer was approved for about $50,000. And at its Aug. 22 meeting, the SBSD board approved technology expenses for about $938,000.

SBSD board members also approved a contract on Aug. 22 with Del Mar Union School District board member Kristin Gibson to conduct professional development to certificated teachers in Common Core State Standards for mathematics.

Gibson’s contract runs from September 2013 through June 2014 and is not to exceed $15,000. She will provide training and workshops for kindergarten, first- and second-grade teachers.

SBSD’s Lynch said the instructional services department’s decision to approach Gibson to provide professional development was based on her experience with Cognitively Guided Instruction and “her expertise in mathematics and teacher training,” Lynch said in an email. “Her position on the Del Mar Board of Education was not a factor in the decision.”

Speaking of Cognitively Guided Instruction, why am I hearing so many complaints from Del Mar parents about the number of days DMUSD classroom teachers are absent because they are in mandatory training workshops for CGI? A topic for another time.

At their August 28 meeting, board members for the Del Mar Union School District approved a number of expenditures, most related to technology. The purchase order report for July shows nearly $453,000 in technology costs.

Cathy Birks, DMUSD’s assistant superintendent of business services, said about $277,700 was related to ChromeBook acquisitions, and some of the costs were offset by donations. About $70,300 went to Nimble Storage for two servers to replace failing equipment, and $92,713 was a P.O. for Safari Montage for video and content distribution equipment, which replaces an older, failing VCR system.

Three purchase orders were issued to the Dolinka Group, a financial advisory and facilities planning services organization based in Irvine, for the administration of special taxes for two Community Facilities Districts and for a demographic study of the Pacific Highlands Ranch area.

A purchase order to Pacifica Del Mar restaurant in Del Mar for $873 was for a day of training on August 7 attended by 20 DMUSD leadership team members, Birks said.

Lastly, the latest P.O. for Care-A-Van, the company DMUSD uses to provide transportation to and from school for special education students, totals $641,000. This is to transport about 62 students for the 2013-2014 school year, Birks said, which comes to approximately $10,338 per student. Although mandated by law, transporting special ed students is funded primarily with money from a district’s general fund.

County money

The Board of Education at the County of San Diego voted itself a 5-percent raise last month, which increases each member’s monthly stipend from $463.05 to $486.20, according to Music Watson, chief communications officer for the San Diego County Office of Education.

The motion was made by Sue Hartley, the local board representative for the fifth district at the county office of education, and passed 4-1. The raise is retroactive to August 1, 2013.

The single no vote was cast by Gregg Robinson, board member for the first district, which runs from just south of Del Mar along the coast to Point Loma. Hartley’s district extends from Del Mar, north to Fallbrook, and inland to include Bonsall and part of the Poway Unified School District.

— Marsha Sutton can be reached at