On 3/4/16, a group composed of WJUSD representatives, vested community members and Better Way members toured 6 schools to gain a better appreciation of the needs of the district. The observations are presented here. A reoccurring theme seemed to be that many of the district's facility problems are a result of a lack of preventative maintenance. It would seem reasonable that the district focus on a preventative maintenance plan, which is an area that school bonds cannot be legally dedicated (unless you wait until facilities are in such utter disrepair that bond money can be used, at a much greater cost, for "modernization") before asking property owners to fund projects resulting from lack of school maintenance. To see examples, check out the photos and observations for the six schools toured: Woodland High, Freeman Elementary, Beamer Elementary, Maxwell Elementary, Whitehead Elementary, Lee Middle.
Here are some comments (names withdrawn) from some community members who were present:
"Obviously, the schools that we viewed today need some upgrading, some more than others. Today was, I believe, a valuable day for the district, board members, employees and for us that took the tour. I feel that we, with your leadership, have the attention of the district and that they are willing to listen. I also feel that if they choose not to work with us, that they will have a hard time passing a bond measure. Very good day for both sides."
"I'm glad I had a chance to see a few schools. I would agree that their condition is alarming, and the lack of a comprehensive strategy for maintaining and upgrading our schools has taken a toll. I think a re-examination of the priorities of all fifteen locations, with the appropriate contractors and engineers is a good starting point. The purpose of which would be to request real cost estimates pertaining to the priority projects each school needs. I would also suggest the school board members, or whoever also is helping to write the bond are present so that a comprehensive set of estimates and priorities can be agreed upon, and they can act as a blueprint for a future strategy. All of the estimates and opinions of these contractors and engineers can be reviewed at the school board meetings as progress is made. I think that the old method of spending money on big new projects or upgrades without them being balanced against a comprehensive strategy is unsound give the condition of our schools. I also think that the list of needs is so great within our school district, that without an agreed strategy, priority list, and a preventative maintenance schedule for each school, we won’t be able to set an expectation for the use of the bond dollars. Without our community setting real expectations for the allocation of the bond dollars, we shouldn't think there will be any accountability for the use of these dollars in the years to come. If I can help with any painting estimates or answer any other questions please call."
"I always try to be positive in my approach. Yesterday's tour really challenged me. After visiting Lee JH I was quite discouraged and convinced that WJUSD has major problems taking care of their facilities. To consider throwing more money into the pot to take care of pressing (and many legitimate) needs is careless until efforts are made to "right the ship". I appreciated Nick's candor but I felt he has become almost numb to the things we saw and were appalled by. Status quo has been tolerated for too long. Nick is no doubt understaffed; but hiring 3 new full time employees won't necessarily change / correct what has been going on. I’m afraid that new employees will possibly pick up some of the same attitudes and work ethic revealed by the state of our schools. Nick made a vague nod to the fact there was a morale problem with his crew. If they hire new employees they should be given responsibility for correcting the deferred maintenance that has piled up. I'm thinking of gutters full of dirt and vegetation, downspout flooding and undermining concrete flatwork, unpainted and deteriorating wood trim, mold, early dry rot - just to name a few. The entire board of trustees along with the superintendant should have been with us yesterday - they would have been appalled."