Earthquakes seem to be on the minds of many these days.
Mayor Garcetti floated a long-term plan to retrofit older multi-story and concrete buildings to withstand major quakes. There will be a price to pay: a modest two-story structure could require around $100,000 to strengthen. The overall cost will likely be in the low billions of dollars.
A new movie about a 9.0 earthquake on the San Andreas fault is due to be released in May 2015. It depicts the total destruction of California.
But who needs natural disasters when the LAUSD provides a non-stop stream of catastrophes that burn through piles of money faster than the recent fire took down the massive apartment project in downtown?
Let’s look at the history.
In 2007, the LAUSD launched a new payroll system which cost $90 million. Chaos erupted as some teachers were overpaid and others underpaid. The system fix cost $37 million, half of which was recouped from the contractor. Thousands of teachers had their lives turned upside down; some are still being pursued for overpayments whether or not there is support for the claims.
An audit by LAUSD’s Inspector General disclosed another payroll disaster. The report, which was issued in January 2010, stated there had been $200 million in payments to temporary staff filling positions for which the funding had expired. It was also unclear what services were being performed by these employees.
More recently, we have seen a string of costly failures.
There was the mismanaged rollout of IPads, a project that dipped into school construction bond money – funds that should have been dedicated to brick and mortar improvements, never mind what attracted the FBI to conduct its own investigation. Only the nuanced interpretation by the LAUSD’s internal legal minds claimed it was a legitimate use.
Maybe LAUSD was doing us a favor by diverting the construction funds considering the costly excesses attributable to the construction of the Belmont Learning Center as well as the Robert F. Kennedy complex, located on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel. The latter is the most expensive facility in the system’s history. It was approaching $600 million as of 2010.
MiSiS (My Integrated Student Information System) is a trainwreck in process. The failure of this system is preventing some students from scheduling courses required for graduation and making it difficult, if not impossible, to release accurate academic transcripts.
The cost to fix the system could easily exceed $100 million. It has already resulted in a hiring freeze.
To make matters worse, MiSiS was the replacement for ISIS (not related to the Syrian gang, but that’s the only good news). ISIS was considered unsatisfactory. Its sticker price was $43 million, but I am unsure how much of that was actually paid. There was a $12 million dollar payment the LAUSD claims it made in error to Harris Education Consulting due to a contract snafu (what other type of contracting is there at LAUSD?).
What all of these failures have in common is the absence of competent management. The ultimate responsibility rests with the Board, the members of which approve the budgets and directly or indirectly approve the hiring of executives charged with the administration of the system.
These are past and present Board Members who were around for almost all of the meltdowns (year shows when elected). If a member is not shown, he/she was elected only recently:
Monica Garcia 2006 (Still in office)
Steve Zimmer 2009 (Still in office)
Tamar Galatzan 2007 (Still in office)
Marlene Canter 2001
Yolie Flores Aguilar 2007
Julie Korenstein 1987
Richard Vladovic 2007 (Still in office)
Bennett Kaysar 2011 (Still in office)
If members are incapable of managing and controlling the performance of the highest ranking executives in the system, if they lack the ability to understand or question big-ticket project progress reports, then it is time to send them packing before they bankrupt the school system.