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San Diego Unified has paid outside consultants $23,000 to get a 22-person committee to agree to four basic ideas about San Diego Unified’s next potential facilities bond.

Henson Consulting Group was originally contracted for $15,000 to work with the Ad Hoc Task Force on the Bond Committee, which includes representatives from the Parent Teacher Association, local builders, the California Charter Schools Association, and the Business Roundtable on Education. Their contract was later revised upward to $23,000.

Task force member Jim Varnadore told the school board Tuesday night that the consultants were “a waste of money.”

The task force met six times, including a day-long tour of schools. Rather than evaluating the list of bond projects, the task force generated “themes” about what the bond should do. School board President Katherine Nakamura called it “almost poetry, really”:

Theme #1: Heart & Soul
Schools are and should be the “heart and soul” of the community. School aesthetics, community benefits, curb appeal, and neighborhood pride are important priorities.

Theme #2: Parity of Physical Facilities and Structures
Parity of the physical structures in ALL schools, including charter schools where appropriate, should be addressed and considered. There should be consistent baseline standards for ALL school facilities.

Theme #3: Student Learning & Achievement
Facilities improvements that clearly improve student learning should be a priority. The District and the voters need to accurately understand the correlation between facilities standards and achievement levels. Bond proceeds should be allocated for facilities improvements to support curriculum that prioritizes student learning and achievement. One example is prioritizing funding toward adequate facilities for Career Technical Education if it is a priority in school curriculum. Another example is a broader tranformational process for school facilities to progressively support curriculum or teaching and learning methods of the 21st century.

Theme #4: Accountability
The District should continue to review and reassess lessons learned from Proposition MM, including oversight of bond implementation and construction of capital improvements under the bond. For example, the bidding process for construction projects should prioritize “local vendors, local hire” where fiscally prudent and appropriate.

Read the whole task force report here.

EMILY ALPERT

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