• LG Resident Opinion: The Uphill Climb to Build Lexington Only to Fall Off a Cliff Without a Parachute

    The following email was submitted by a group of "concerned parents." They live in the LGUSD district; however, they wish to remain anonymous:

    The April 10th board vote to stop building Lexington has sent shockwaves throughout our community. I can’t help but ask, “How did we get here?”

    After thinking back over the past several months of Board meetings, what stands out is the overly optimistic presentations from the District’s Chief Business Officer. Her presentations listed the challenges with each action being taken. Things were moving on track to be shovel-ready by June. Our expectation was a green light to start building.

    Then we hear the big shock. Four million dollars later and CGS still will not approve it. Why?

    As CBO and Project Manager, Leslie Paulides was intimately aware of all aspects of the Lexington project. She was responsible for interfacing with the geological consultants and even stood before us, at a board meeting, confidently explaining soil samples to determine geologic era, slope stability and landslides. She knew all of the challenges with water, fire, safety, and seismic issues the engineers faced. Were the consultants misleading her? Why was everything presented as so rosy until now?

    Now with the cold light of reality of the situation we face, with the Board ceasing investment in the project and with the Lexington kids being removed from their campus, I believe our expectations, in large part, were colored by this picture of possibility painted time and again.

    As CBO, shouldn’t she have been the fiscally conservative voice preparing the public and the Board that there were serious hurdles to overcome? In school board meetings, the CBO rules. She is in charge and in control of the information the Board receives. She controls everything except the Board vote. In the case of Lexington, it is what she did not tell them that heavily influenced the vote.

    Does she even provide information that the school board requests? In the last 6 months, on two separate occasions, the Board requested other possible alternatives to the Lexington location when the project cost started spiraling and CGS had extensive questions jeopardizing shovel-ready by June. When asked about other alternatives, out of hand (or with the flip of a hand), Leslie would say the very thing that is written on this blog by so many people “there is nothing available."

    On October 18th, Scott Broomfield requested all reasonable alternatives be evaluated. Was even one alternative presented?? It was always build Lexington or bust. How could our chief budget officer not have any contingency plans given the well-known risks with the Lexington site?

    On March 6th, Doug Halbert asked to look at (a) the cost of the mat foundation increase and building envelope setback, and (b) the cost to upscope Lexington to hold 400 students. Do you think that our CBO, Leslie Paulides, provided answers to her Board at the April 10th meeting? You’ve got it, NO, NADA, NOTHING. When pressed, she side-stepped, saying that she didn’t do the work because in light of the CGS report, she didn’t “think” that it was necessary, flagrantly disregarding the directive of the Board. The public and the Board were expecting to hear what the upscope costs would be so all the information needed to make decisions would be in front of them.

    Do our Oversight Committees have oversight?:

    The lack of regard for Board requests made me want to look at what happens when our community asks questions. Leslie is responsible for all financial oversight committees in our district. Do these committees get the information they request? Does their input fall on deaf ears?


    • Parcel Tax Oversight Committee: I know you are asking, “What Parcel Tax Oversight Committee?” So was I when I read the new charter for our Budget Oversight Committee on the agenda this week. Well, the Measure E Parcel Tax passed in 2008 required three things:

    “(1) the tax money be deposited into a separate fund, (2) the District to appoint an independent fiscal oversight committee to review the expenditure of these special tax proceeds, and (3) no later than January 1 of each year while the tax is in effect, the District would prepare and file with the Board of Education a report …” (http://www.smartvoter.org/2008/06/03/ca/scl/meas/E/)

    The good news is the funds are kept separate. The bad news – no independent oversight committee was ever established. You read that correctly that for 4 years, no one has reviewed what these special tax dollars are spent on and whether it is what was promised, as required by law. CBO Leslie Paulides doesn’t even file her reports until sometime in March, and there has been no report for this year. Now in the 11th hour, she has directed the Budget Advisory Council to review—just over spring break—all expenditures. Has the Board ever even given the BAC the authority to be the oversight body?


    • Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee: My research continues to uncover a trend of disregard of requests and input. In the March 4, 2011 CBOC Meeting Minutes, there are several revealing comments about how Leslie operates. The first is, “Dan {Markey} expressed concern over adding to the project scope without Board approval.” Leslie explained the process she undertakes with all changes (i.e. whether to seek permission to authorize change in scope). Leslie explained that in order to keep the project moving forward, she has to make decisions as the Board only meets once a month.” (http://www.lgusd.k12.ca.us/business/CBOC/documents/CBOC_Minutes3411.pdf)

    In those same meeting minutes, “Craig {Hunter} expressed concern about wasting money today on water upgrades in case the project does not go forward. Leslie reassured the committee that San Jose Water has not started any work.” Really? Yet when looking at Page 17 of the Measure E Invoice Summary, there were already some suspiciously large charges billed by San Jose Water. What did we spend $723,879.00 dollars on at Lexington?

    Hindsight is always 20/20. How did we get here? I believe our community should have been prepared for the insurmountable challenges of building Lexington. We needed reality, not a pretty picture. These are families, children and a community. People’s lives and hopes were put into building this school. The school board should have demanded their requests get answers.

    I certainly hope our school board has learned the hard way that they need to hold their staff accountable to their directives, and not just sit back and go along with whatever is presented to them. Until I see some accountability, I will be keeping my parachute close at hand, as the budget cliff is just around the bend.

    --Concerned Parents

    If you would like to submit an article, please email me: kir@insidelg.com
    Comments 66 Comments
    1. taxpayer's Avatar
      taxpayer -
      How does it happen that a committee that is required by the voters is never formed? Two people who were on the BAC in 2008 when parcel tax was being discussed were Leslie Paulides and Doug Halbert. Tina, Chris and Kathy were on the board and all involved in the ballot measure. They will blame the change in leadership or some lame excuse. This is a SPECIAL TAX that requires 2/3 of the voters to approve. It is supposed to pay for specific things like smaller class sizes...are we connecting the dots yet. No oversight...bigger class sizes.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I think the current idea for saving Lex's IB program and housing students at Dave's is a perfect example the other solutions were not considered. Everyone wanted the Lex school built so much that we had blinders on. However, the district should have prepared us. This is their job. I AM shocked about the parcel tax oversight committee. That's pretty scary. Also you can't tell what is spent on what for Measure E. How would a committee even understand? What was $700k to San Jose Water??
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      700k to San Jose Water was to fix pipes, increase water flow with larger pipes and hook-up to the Montevina Pipeline. These fire-safety measures should have been done 30 years ago, and really shouldnt be part of the build costs, but maintenance fees. I really dont think the BOT or Leslie could have foreseen the poliical firestorm at the state level that is CGS. Really, no school can be feasibly built at the revised standards, let's hope things turn around soon.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      700k to San Jose Water was to fix pipes, increase water flow with larger pipes and hook-up to the Montevina Pipeline. These fire-safety measures should have been done 30 years ago, and really shouldnt be part of the build costs, but maintenance fees. I really dont think the BOT or Leslie could have foreseen the poliical firestorm at the state level that is CGS. Really, no school can be feasibly built at the revised standards, let's hope things turn around soon.
      Were these water "maintenance" costs taken from bond funds? If so, they fall under the CBOC, but I can't think of any good excuse not to accurately answer a question from the public, regardless of where the funds come from.

      Whether or not the "political firestorm" at CGS could be foreseen, there were plenty of warning signs that CGS acceptance was not a guarantee (I clearly remember hearing a 50/50 chance being stated by the consultants), and even BOARD DIRECTIVES WERE IGNORED.

      Shame on the Board and Superintendent(s) for not requiring proper accountability all along. Shame on them again if they do nothing about it now.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by taxpayer View Post
      How does it happen that a committee that is required by the voters is never formed? Two people who were on the BAC in 2008 when parcel tax was being discussed were Leslie Paulides and Doug Halbert. Tina, Chris and Kathy were on the board and all involved in the ballot measure. They will blame the change in leadership or some lame excuse. This is a SPECIAL TAX that requires 2/3 of the voters to approve. It is supposed to pay for specific things like smaller class sizes...are we connecting the dots yet. No oversight...bigger class sizes.
      This is frightening! We're not just talking about the "spirit" of the law this time, we're talking about the letter of the law!

      Be it intention, incompetence, or negligence, there is absolutely no excuse for the district to not comply with a law that THEY themselves put on the ballot!
    1. concerned's Avatar
      concerned -
      Another serious problem that recently came to my attention is the capacity assumption that was used to frame the entire Measure E bond. All our rebuilt schools were done with growth in mind; the problem is, it appears that they were not built big enough. This should have been known at the time of Measure E based on the demographic report commissioned by the district in 2008 and based on the 2020 Town Plan.The Measure E ballot initiative was based on 925 new housing units but the Town Plan was based on 1,600 new housing developments, so our entire Measure E bond amount was incorrectly framed, and that is one reason why we have the capacity problems that we have in this district. Our CBO/facilities manager knew OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN for more than 2 years that we needed more space based on the final Town Plan, but failed to start the long term planning that was required. Here is the timeline:



      March 10, 2010 – Draft EIR and Town 2020 General Plan out for public review with 1,600 new housing units

      June 8, 2010 – Measure E Ballot Initiative based on 925 new housing units

      January 7, 2011 – Final 2020 Town of LG General Plan Adopted with 1,600 new housing units

      June 14, 2011 – Leslie Paulides does a BAC Annual Report to the Board saying, “They have heard a range of 925-1,600 units, but need to work with the town to understand.”


      Since the Town Plan was published, elementary site capacities have been a moving target, going up in tandem with our growing population. Did you know that Lexington is the only school in our district that is at capacity per chart prepared by Leslie Oct. 2011? Despite no facilities changes, 130 seats magically appeared this year at the downtown schools and 42 seats were magically lost at Lexington. Let me be clear that we were not talking about the additional VM 10 classrooms because that was a separate column on the chart. How can that be? Site capacity should be a fixed number that does not change unless the facilities change!! Maybe it is time for a qualified Facilities Manager to be hired by our district.
    1. new parent's Avatar
      new parent -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      This is frightening! We're not just talking about the "spirit" of the law this time, we're talking about the letter of the law!

      Be it intention, incompetence, or negligence, there is absolutely no excuse for the district to not comply with a law that THEY themselves put on the ballot!
      OK, I just read the Parcel Tax language for myself. It is clear as day what needed to happen. You have got to be kidding me. I voted so I would have smaller class sizes.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      it's obvious that this district is in need of a professional Facilities Director. It is hard to lobby for adding another salary to the budget when the Board voted to cut $1.2M from our children's education. But, things are slipping through the cracks and Ms. Paulides has demonstrated that she can not manage being CBO and Facilities Director. The Lex debacle, the budget crisis and now the parcel tax oversight oversight. In the long run we will save more money by having a properly trained individual in the job. This district can't continue to fund these mis steps.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      The Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) is on the agenda tomorrow night. Will this group provide oversight to the parcel tax/measure E? I would imagine this has quickly become a "to do" item. Can't believe this was never formed for Measure E. Who is watching how our tax dollars are being spent?

      http://www.boardfiles.lgusd.k12.ca.u...s%20050112.PDF
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by concerned View Post
      Another serious problem that recently came to my attention is the capacity assumption that was used to frame the entire Measure E bond. All our rebuilt schools were done with growth in mind; the problem is, it appears that they were not built big enough. This should have been known at the time of Measure E based on the demographic report commissioned by the district in 2008 and based on the 2020 Town Plan.The Measure E ballot initiative was based on 925 new housing units but the Town Plan was based on 1,600 new housing developments, so our entire Measure E bond amount was incorrectly framed, and that is one reason why we have the capacity problems that we have in this district. Our CBO/facilities manager knew OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN for more than 2 years that we needed more space based on the final Town Plan, but failed to start the long term planning that was required. Here is the timeline:



      March 10, 2010 – Draft EIR and Town 2020 General Plan out for public review with 1,600 new housing units

      June 8, 2010 – Measure E Ballot Initiative based on 925 new housing units

      January 7, 2011 – Final 2020 Town of LG General Plan Adopted with 1,600 new housing units

      June 14, 2011 – Leslie Paulides does a BAC Annual Report to the Board saying, “They have heard a range of 925-1,600 units, but need to work with the town to understand.”


      Since the Town Plan was published, elementary site capacities have been a moving target, going up in tandem with our growing population. Did you know that Lexington is the only school in our district that is at capacity per chart prepared by Leslie Oct. 2011? Despite no facilities changes, 130 seats magically appeared this year at the downtown schools and 42 seats were magically lost at Lexington. Let me be clear that we were not talking about the additional VM 10 classrooms because that was a separate column on the chart. How can that be? Site capacity should be a fixed number that does not change unless the facilities change!! Maybe it is time for a qualified Facilities Manager to be hired by our district.
      When the town adopted 1,600 as a final plan in Jan, wasn't that the answer? So frustrated... This shell game of who has available classrooms and who doesn't is crazy. Yes, we need a new facilities manager. Especially given the challenges we have right now. I don't know who does all this research but keep it coming!
    1. planner's Avatar
      planner -
      The answer was in the Draft EIR when they put it out for public reivew. BTW, the School District is one of the agencies that the document is sent to for review, so Ms. Paulides and the Superintendent at the time, Richard Whitmore, would have gotten it from the town. There are so many things that are over looked or the facts change all the time at the district office. I guess all the skeletons are falling out of the closet now...
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I think Leslie is the most dedicated hard-working person this district has seen in decades and we are lucky to have her. The vm wing and the fisher wing were added for the capacity issues. We have empty classrooms at Daves and BH. The BOT and district staff have managed everything appropriately.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      I think Leslie is the most dedicated hard-working person this district has seen in decades and we are lucky to have her. The vm wing and the fisher wing were added for the capacity issues. We have empty classrooms at Daves and BH. The BOT and district staff have managed everything appropriately.
      LOL!!!!!!!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      I think Leslie is the most dedicated hard-working person this district has seen in decades and we are lucky to have her. The vm wing and the fisher wing were added for the capacity issues. We have empty classrooms at Daves and BH. The BOT and district staff have managed everything appropriately.

      I think a lot of teachers and other staff are dedicated hard-working people.

      IF everything has been managed appropriately then why are the Lex families so upset?
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Boy, I wish being dedicated and hard-working was the answer to our problems. Sorry everyone... but I worked really hard!

      I don't know what to say about everything being "managed appropriately". Really? We're out of money, classrooms and the Lex kids have to move AND we have no strategic plan. Great job!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      I think Leslie is the most dedicated hard-working person this district has seen in decades and we are lucky to have her. The vm wing and the fisher wing were added for the capacity issues. We have empty classrooms at Daves and BH. The BOT and district staff have managed everything appropriately.
      Then we, as a community and parents, are setting a really low bar. All of the items above are clearly a case of mismanagement and abuse of power.
    1. Peggy Dallas's Avatar
      Peggy Dallas -
      I've admittedly become aware of this situation just recently.
      This is what I've been able to figure out has happened so far....and the questions I have.

      $4 million of the $18 million allocated for the Lexington rebuild has been spent for the following:

      • $900,000 on Geo-technical
      • $1 million on maintenance of water and sewage systems at Lexington
      • $2.1 million spent on the architectural?


      Looking through some of the documents regarding this project, it appears that HMC, the architectural consultant, was scheduled to submit 90% complete construction documents to Division of the State Architect (DSA) a year and a half ago. Was this ever done? …the schedule at the district website hasn’t been updated. From the discussion I’ve heard and from the amount of money apparently spent, it seems to have been done. If so, how did they know where to site the buildings and engineer the structure without all of the geo-technical issues being discovered. As an architect I am trying to understand how the architects and engineers involved justified designing and engineering a project in a known geo-technically challenging area without completing the geo-technical work first.

      Why was this project even considered for fast track production? What was the rush? Wouldn’t it have been much more financially prudent to resolve the geo issues before investing so heavily in the architecture?
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Peggy Dallas View Post
      I've admittedly become aware of this situation just recently.
      This is what I've been able to figure out has happened so far....and the questions I have.

      $4 million of the $18 million allocated for the Lexington rebuild has been spent for the following:

      • $900,000 on Geo-technical
      • $1 million on maintenance of water and sewage systems at Lexington
      • $2.1 million spent on the architectural?


      Looking through some of the documents regarding this project, it appears that HMC, the architectural consultant, was scheduled to submit 90% complete construction documents to Division of the State Architect (DSA) a year and a half ago. Was this ever done? …the schedule at the district website hasn’t been updated. From the discussion I’ve heard and from the amount of money apparently spent, it seems to have been done. If so, how did they know where to site the buildings and engineer the structure without all of the geo-technical issues being discovered. As an architect I am trying to understand how the architects and engineers involved justified designing and engineering a project in a known geo-technically challenging area without completing the geo-technical work first.

      Why was this project even considered for fast track production? What was the rush? Wouldn’t it have been much more financially prudent to resolve the geo issues before investing so heavily in the architecture?
      Peggy,
      These are very astute questions. I sat through board meetings and watched this process unfold. The short answer. The Board, Ms. Paulides and the District rolled the dice and lost. They pushed projects forward in tandem with the testing and crossed their fingers that the project would be green lighted. Unfortunately, the real loser is the Lexington community. They got royally screwed.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      And now everyone's going to get screwed! Nice job LGUSD!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      At the April 10 board meeting, someone brought this up as an analogy during public comment. Anyone in land development would do the geo testing first. I have heard but haven't researched that DSA approval comes only afer CGS approval. Could the CGS approval be based on the architectural design? Only in the government arena could things be so backward. You are asking the right questions now, Peggy.
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