Administrator Tim White’s departure under pressure from the Oakland Unified School District has left the department he led – Facilities Planning and Management – in disarray, according to sources.
Workers and administrators in the department are apparently afraid and demoralized, fearful for their jobs and afraid that they will be targeted for retaliation if they come forward with their concerns, the sources say.
“They feel scared, and they came to me,” said Joanna Lougin, executive director of the United Administrators of Oakland Schools (UAOS), the union that represents many school administrators.
“I wanted them to meet with the superintendent and said I would go with them so he could talk to them directly,” Lougin said. “But they are afraid. They are scared of losing their jobs.”
For the past 14 years, Tim White headed the department, which is responsible for overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction and renovation of school buildings and day-to-day school maintenance, painting, gardening, custodial services and electrical and boiler repair of school properties.
Among their concerns, a number of people are saying that technical advice of the department is regularly overruled or ignored by the district General Counsel Jacqueline Minor and her staff.
Employees are concerned that Lance Jackson, the head of the firm SGI that provides project management consultants to the district, has been made the temporary chief of the department.
They say he might use his authority to layoff or fire employees so that they can be replaced by consultants from his firm, Lougin said.
“They are afraid the consultant is going to try to get rid of their jobs and try to bring in his own people,” said Lougin.
“They are right to be upset,” she said. They don’t know if they are going to be cut, reduced or changed.”
They are unsure why Custodial Services Roland Broach has been appointed to lead the Buildings and Grounds section of the department. Though Broach is highly respected for the work he does, staff are concerned about what it means to appoint someone who has no background in repairs and construction, Lougin said.
“The district has never made this many changes in this short a time,” Lougin continued. “Why is all of this happening now?”
In response, district spokesman Troy Flint said, “Tim led the facilities department for more than a decade, so it’s natural that his departure would unsettle some people.”
“That doesn’t mean their jobs are in jeopardy, just that they’re reacting to change. Change is always difficult, but we’re well positioned to continue the forward movement of our Facilities Department,” Flint said.
“Part of the reason why we asked Lance to serve as interim head of Facilities is because his familiarity with OUSD’s ongoing and future work will help minimize disruption during this transitional period,” he continued. “Lance is not going to bring in a raft of SGI employees, if any. SGI has a long relationship with the district and if those employees were angling for positions in the district, they could have done so long before now.”
“Roland Broach, the new executive director for Buildings and Grounds, has spent most of his adult life in OUSD’s Facilities Department and has familiarity with all OUSD sites from his work as head of Custodial Services. He will be working with OUSD’s longtime Director of Building and Grounds Leroy Stokes, who retains his current position and will continue to offer his decades of experience in this role.”
“The knowledge base remains, and there is not going to be a staff overhaul – only the reporting structure at the top is changing.”