|The previous Middle School in its later stage|
There has been a great deal of conversation and activity regarding the commencement of the Sierra Madre Upper Campus over on the Organize Sierra Madre Schools Facebook page. Well, about as much activity as there can be on a page with 175 or so members, two of whom are the Brandenburgs. It’s one of the few places with the name Sierra Madre in it that actually claims to like us. The other being here.
You may recall this post from the Sierra Madre Tattler on June 4 (click here):
Ok Tattlers. You must, MUST attend the Tuesday, June 11 PUSD board meeting to advocate for the middle school to be approved and construction started. we have some new folks on the board, Hampton! Who do not understand the history of this school and the board policies around it. In the sub-committee meeting today Hampton did not want to approve the school. we must get this passed next Tuesday so construction can begin July 5. if it gets rescoped again, that means another 18 - 24 month delay.
It was a busy day June 4 because there was a Facilities Subcommittee meeting the same day, information from which showed up on Facebook by June 5th. Organize Sierra Madre Schools, a mysterious organism speaking on your behalf as well as promoting posts and sharing information from some of my favorite groups such as Peter Dreier’s IiPK, wrote:
Yesterday, the Facilities Sub-Committee met and heard the bids for the Middle School project. Despite Frazer Thompson's promise that he would get a bid in the $26M to $27M range, only one bid came in in that range. The lowest bid came in at $27.888M and was brought to the FSC for approval.
At the meeting yesterday, new Board Member Tyrone Hampton DID NOT approve the bid. Tom Selinske did approve. It is our understanding that currently the committee has only two members. So this will go to the Board without full support of the FSC. We absolutely need Board support of 4 Board Members or this project will be dead again.
The biggest and most important decision for the Sierra Madre construction project - GETTING BOARD APPROVAL for the $27.888M bid so that construction can begin - will be happening right after school gets out. Because this has happened multiple times to SMMS, this timing is no accident. The District is hoping to minimize parent involvement by strategically placing the vote at times when school is not in session. WE MUST STAY COMMITTED TO GETTING THIS PASSED!
Mary posted that I would be speaking to Tyron Hampton about his decision, and, of course, after a little bit of phone tag, I did talk to him on my way to Casa Bianca (click here). In between trips to my car to find someone’s cell phone, I got some information from Tyron on his position. Tyron’s assumption, and it probably is a legitimate one, is that the building reality will come in at $3 million to 7 million over budget due to unforeseen costs that are the nature of this type of bid.
His belief is that the budget will come up short mid construction because of value added (?) changes that I understand to be discrepancies between the original project and bids, the changes- materials I assume- that are not actually part of the original architect's design. I'm sorry, I didn't really understand it. I get the feeling he wants to make sure the community gets what it asked for, and not a rush job that ends up costing more and is done with less care.
I explained to him that I personally didn’t care if it got built either way, and that I thought the parcel would be better used as an apartment or a farm, but that many people in the community cared about it a great deal. I explained that the project is a sore spot due to snap decisions on demolition, and a history of Sierra Madre being bumped down to the bottom of the “to do” list.
I shared that we all had to listen to Renatta Cooper say I’m sorry” about fifty times for the snap decision to tear down the original structure without making sure the plans had even been approved.
I suggested that making progress in the construction of the school would make people feel that progress was occurring, and the biggest concern that I hear is that of the actual structure. I made it clear to Tyron that this is something that needs to be started, especially the actual school, and that the pretty flowers and field and peripherals could get done as the budget allows. most importantly, to all concerned, the project needs to start.
The part where I shared my personal opinions - such as to frame it, and never finish it - I kept to myself. I’m so diplomatic. A regular old Henry Kissinger, I am. I also told him it would be a drag to see him become the fall guy on this mess since he simply inherited it, so I asked him to send over a letter of explanation, but that didn’t happen. The litmus test for Tyron will be the vote on Tuesday.
A Letter from Some Pasadena Guy With a Kid in Sierra Madre
From: Erik Brandon Date: June 5, 2013, 9:49:33 PM PDT
To: Elizabeth Pomeroy, Scott Phelps, Tom Selinske, Renatta Cooper, Mikala Rahn
Cc: Chris Koerber, John Capoccia, Andrea Mulholland, Alisa Fishbach, Stapenhorst, Dany Richey, Julie Flad, Leigh Gluck, Genevieve Miller, Gwen Robertson, Plauto Leary
Subject: Sierra Madre Middle School
Dear Pasadena Unified School Board Members,
I was saddened to hear that a vote to reject the current Sierra Madre Middle School bids was cast at the recent PUSD Facilities Subcommittee meeting, particularly when they are so close (within 3%) of the original estimate.
Since this vote came from a new board member who lacks a depth of understanding/experience on this particular issue, the Sierra Madre community is counting on your strong support (based on your previous expressed support on this topic) to ensure these bids are accepted on June 11.
Simply put, further delays are not an option. I have met with several of you and spoke at numerous meetings. We have discussed this topic for years, the board has apologized for its mistakes, and now it is time to move forward and approve the bids. Ground Breaking is set for July 5, 2013, and nothing must derail this schedule.
I will continue to work with Senator Liu, the Sierra Madre City Council, and other related local and state agencies, to determine any and all actions we as a community can take to ensure the correct decision is made here. We appreciate your unwavering commitment going into this crucial vote.
Sierra Madre School Parent and Pasadena Resident
I let the Organize Sierra Madre Schools folks know I thought this was a silly way to approach the Board since, as far as I can tell, there is a great deal of support for the project.
Tell Erik and anyone else that emails dropping Liu's name aren't going to make anyone move faster. In fact, probably counter-productive to come across as a heavy, especially with people who have already committed to the project. You know me, and I know you, and this isn't my battle. Best to keep it positive so the supporters that the community has aren't isolated.
Believe me, I know what I am talking about on this one.
Which Way Will the Wind Blow?
Approval on this project continuing requires a majority of 4, and there will be 6 members in attendance. I have talked to enough of the board members and attended enough meetings to believe this will go through as scheduled. Renatta Cooper - surprise, surprise - will not be in attendance. Nothing like promising Sierra Madre the school will be built, then making oneself Board of Ed president, and then ditching Sierra Madre when the vote comes in. Good thing vice president Tyron Hampton will be presiding. Hey, welcome to the big time.
Public comment begins at 6:30 on Tuesday, June 11 at the PUSD Board room. If you want to speak, fill out the yellow card, and turn it in. Probably want to get there about 6:15. The Item is L and will no doubt be up around 7-ish, I am guessing (click here). I am predicting this will go through without a hitch, but it is not a bad idea to go down there and show you care. I can’t as I have a prior commitment (click here).
On an aside, I would suggest that families with children who have asthma that might be affected start planning the next couple of years either way.
Organize Sierra Madre Schools Gets the Last Word
Tony, we don't doubt the Measure TT budget will come up short and some projects won't get finished. The District has been spending enormous amounts - approximately 60% last year - on consultants and personnel. Their spending strategy has been to keep their facilities employees funded through TT funds to free up other funds. They are also incentivized to slow projects down as those employees will be out of jobs once the projects are finished. At this point, we cannot be worried about the other projects. SM has no school and the District needs to honor their commitment and build it, no matter what the cost.