To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear School Board and Superintendent Drati,
We are writing to oppose the piecemeal decisions expected to be made at the next School Board meeting on January 14 that will spend our remaining bond funds without addressing community priorities. Instead, we ask you to halt construction, as well as program planning that requires new construction, and take the actions requested below. Specifically, we request that the Board press pause and do the following:
1. AGENDIZE THE MATTERS LISTED BELOW SO THE BOARD CAN TAKE ACTION AND VOTE ON THE RECORD. The Board can no longer approve big ticket items as consent items with no discussion, or as “directions” given to staff at study sessions. These matters must be agendized as Major Action Items so the public is properly noticed and can participate, and so the Board can vote to stop construction and construction planning currently in motion, and make the other changes requested below.
2. REJECT THE CAMPUS ASSESSMENTS AND START OVER. The Campus Assessment Project List does not align with previously stated community priorities or what was promised to residents during the bond campaign. The Project List fails to provide necessary improvements such as adequate restrooms and HVAC. Additionally, the Project List removes open space from each campus while adding unnecessary buildings. There was no meaningful outreach to the parents at each school site regarding the proposed projects for their sites, and no District effort to solicit input from our established Neighborhood Organizations. It is fiscally irresponsible to rush forward with these projects that do not meet community goals or bring campuses into compliance with the Department of Education's toilet and HVAC requirements. Please press pause on the Project List and do the following instead:
3. HALT PLANNING FOR SAMOHI PHASE 3. Phase 3 must be paused because it is not too late to save the History Building and save money. According to the District's own memo, it would be cheaper for taxpayers to rehab and retrofit the building. This would leave more funds available for other campuses. Saving the History Building is also the more sustainable option, provides an opportunity for teaching sustainability, honors the past as we modernize for the future, and gives context and value to the study of history and culture. In addition, Phase 3 was supposed to be a new library, not career education, and the History Building could be repurposed for a beautiful library, student center, museum and art space.
4. HALT PLANNING THE CAREER ACADEMIES. Until there is a master plan and we know that we have enough bond funds to meet current priorities and bond campaign promises, the District should not create new programs that require more construction. Moreover, career education was planned for Phase 4 replacing the Language Building, and can be revisited then after assessing how new classrooms in the Innovation and Discovery Buildings can be used for such a program.
5. FUND HISTORIC PRESERVATION EXPERTISE TO STUDY ADAPTIVE REUSE OF THE SAMOHI HISTORY BUILDING AND TO SURVEY ALL CAMPUSES AND CREATE GUIDELINES FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION. We do not want our public funds used to destroy our cultural resources. We have already witnessed the District’s unnecessary destruction of the Muir Woods and Cesar Chavez Murals, as well as the demolition of the historic JAMS Auditorium. LAUSD has a very thorough plan for preservation of its historic resources. SMMUSD should be offering the same protection to school buildings as structures of merit not located on school property. Wrecking ball decisions should not be left to the whim of 4 school board members or unelected staff.
6. REDO THE ED SPECS TO INCLUDE ALL PLANNING REQUIREMENTS. The shortcomings in the $98 million Project List proposed by staff reveals that the Ed Specs don’t address all necessary considerations. Please direct staff to redo the Ed Specs to include HVAC, bathrooms, playgrounds, sports fields, courts, and open space. It is fiscally irresponsible to move forward on campus renovations until we have a complete master plan for each school site.
7. UPDATE THE SUSTAINABILITY PLAN TO INCLUDE ADAPTIVE REUSE. The District’s Sustainability Plan contains a very short section about construction, and it is entirely focused on new construction and superficial changes like energy efficient light bulbs and solar panels. Adaptive reuse of existing facilities is never mentioned. Furthermore, we should not fund a non-certified sustainability consultant who is being paid $96,000 to “provide assistance with sustainability projects” while failing to support the pillars of preservation and adaptive reuse.
8. REQUIRE TRANSPARENCY FROM THE COO AND BOND CONSULTANT REGARDING BOND PROJECTS AND SPENDING. Carey Upton and Massetti Consulting must produce a publicly accessible database of all bond contract documents, and a report of all spending for the past three bonds, each organized by project at each school site. Since Massetti Consulting has already been paid over $10 million, this should be done at no cost to the District. Going forward, no project should be approved without presenting the full scope of construction, a complete operational plan for the use of the new construction, and the total cost of construction, maintenance, and operations (both for the building and the programs). There can be no more speculative building for undefined programs that staff or the Board hopes might work, and no more endless change orders, which often doubles the original cost and sometimes have nothing to do with the original project.
9. INCREASE ENGAGEMENT WITH BOTH PARENTS AND TAXPAYERS. Regardless of claimed outreach by staff, there has been no meaningful consultation with parents and residents regarding construction projects at our schools. District plans must be guided by and reflect community priorities and input. It is not acceptable to present near-final drafts resulting from a series of insular meetings. Outreach must include efforts to reach a broader and more diverse community of stakeholders, including answering questions and soliciting input at Neighborhood Organization meetings, for incorporation into the planning process. Staff should maintain a record of input received from the community that is easily accessible by the public and regularly updated. The School Board meetings are part of the process and we are tired of being told that speaking out here is too late. This is the time we expect for you to respect our words, hear our statements and do what community leaders are asking you to do.
Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition (Wilmont) Board of Directors
Santa Monica Resident Neighborhood Group
Please include this in the public comments for the 1/14/2021 School Board meeting.