On Jan. 16, I spoke at the school board club meeting and tried to explain to the trustees the difference between a symptom and a problem. The Estancia pool, Swun Math, and the Estancia poles, to name a few, are symptoms, not problems.

The problem is the missing or inadequate information that the highly-paid bureaucrats and their highly-paid consultants are providing – or not – to the trustees.

Now, there is evidence that in addition to missing or inadequate information, there could also be information that is – gasp! – incorrect.

On Jan. 11, I was one of many people who attended the 8 a.m. secret special meeting intended to hide the breadth and depth of the closing of the Estancia pool. While I waited for the superintendent to take the opportunity to assume even a modicum of responsibility for decimating the EHS aquatics program, wasting tens of thousands of gallons of precious water, and wasting over $100,000 of taxpayer dollars, we were told that there was “wonderful news” – the pool could be completed with the same scope and a new design for $7 million.

That, at least, was the commitment by one of the consultants hired to sort out this mess. “Same scope, new design.”

But now, the board is poised to rubber-stamp the pool project for $9 million.

So what happened? The highly-paid bureaucrats in whom the school board club has placed their full faith and confidence have screwed up. Again.

Trustee and school board club president Vicki Snell – the one who has blacklisted me from her Facebook comments – stated the following in a recent post (forwarded to me), in response to a question about the $2 million dollar increase:

“Yes…if you watch Tuesday’s meeting, you can see exactly what was added and what it is expected to cost. We expect to get more for our money as we bring Estancia’s aquatic center equal to the other three high schools.

Once again, Snell is missing the point, and I am guessing her colleagues will miss it as well. The extra $2 million is not the issue here. Everyone wants a good aquatics center for the school. That’s not the issue. The issue is incompetence and horrible communication. Taxpayers were told in no uncertain terms that the center could be built for $7 million. Now, two weeks later (the agenda with the $2 million request item was released last week), the costs ballooned to $9 million.

If there are new upgrades to the center, great. But all of this should have been factored in at the outset. $10 million or $9 million should have been budgeted from the get-go, not $7 million. But it wasn’t, and that led to massive bid discrepancies, the draining of the pool, and the terrible handling of the EHS aquatics program.

This much I know:

  1. Revising an aquatics center upwards by $2 million in two weeks is suspect. A $2 million upgrade means a lot of additional work. Estimating these costs in such a short period of time should raise eyebrows on the board. But it won’t.
  2. No one on the board will ask why we were told on Jan. 11 that the center could be built for $7 million if the cost is really $9 million.
  3. No one, least of all the superintendent, will take ownership of this blunder.

And it is a blunder, despite Snell’s weak attempt to spin the extra $2 million as needed to make everything equal.

That should have been done from day one. Instead, taxpayers and the aquatics teams got one of the worst bunglings we’ve seen in a long time, and there have been many of those.

But, hey, it’s just another $2 million of your hard-earned money, right? And it’s for the kids, right?

At the end of the day, someone on the dais, preferably the superintendent, should issue a sincere apology to the student-athletes in the EHS aquatics program because once again, kids suffer due to adult blunders.

Tennis, anyone?

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

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