OP-ED: Lance Jackson Contract Is Critical to the Success of OUSD

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The leadership of the Oakland Unified School District facilities department is critical for the success of our schools.

There are hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at stake – small mistakes can become million dollar lawsuits or delays, and quality work, once done, endures for decades in the service of our children.

 

We approach every management decision keeping in mind our role as public servants and stewards of scare public resources that must be spent as judiciously as possible on behalf of our children.

That’s why I am focused on finding the best, diverse, talent we can to lead the OUSD facilities department for the long-term – ideally with the new person starting by the beginning of the next school year, while ensuring we have strong leadership in the interim.

To meet our interim facilities leadership needs, we have appointed a proven director, Lance Jackson, Senior VP of Operations at SGI, our primary construction management company, and one that ranks among the industry’s Top 100 firms nationally.

Lance served in this position previously, on a temporary basis in the fall of 2013 when the previous Facilities Director was on an extended leave. He performed well before, and that’s why we have looked to him again.

This is also a critical time for OUSD as we put nearly half a billion dollars in Measure J bond funds to work in the form of new schools and community facilities, and undertake major projects such as the Glenview renovation, Fremont High construction, the Central Kitchen, the Second Avenue project, our solar and sustainability effort, and many other initiatives.

This summer we will be going back to the market with another bond sale, and we need a proven industry face to lead this effort.

Talented people generally come at a price and Lance has proven his worth. With someone of Lance’s expertise working on a consultant basis, the price tag is often greater than for the same services from staff.

Initially, a separate contract was developed; then our team realized that was not necessary. The OUSD Board approved our current contract with SGI in August 2013.

This contract empowers Lance to advise the District on regulatory compliance; contract or employ other sub-consultants as necessary; coordinate the work of other professionals employed by the district related to capital projects; chair various meetings; and oversee professional quality, accuracy, estimates, reviews, studies, projections and construction costs for capital projects.

Lance is able to perform the work without conflict because we have various protections in place. First, he is an employee of SGI – not OUSD, and the duties and responsibilities he has been asked to assume are consistent with the District’s contract with SGI.

All Facilities contracts and expenditures have to be approved by the Board, as per Education Code.

Lance has no independent authority to approve expenses since they are forwarded to the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and ultimately to the Board. Senior Business Officer Vernon Hal has exclusive signature authority for all invoices, purchase orders, contract modifications, recommendations to the Board, and expense reimbursements related to SGI.

Again, we have approached this decision keeping in mind what is the most judicious way to protect our limited and vital facilities dollars on behalf of our schools and the taxpayers who fund them.

I am committed to concluding this interim leadership situation as quickly as possible and bringing in the best, brightest, and diverse talent to lead our department into the future as part of our transformation of OUSD.

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