At Monday’s meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, board members expressed frustration over the mishandling of a construction contract. It’s not clear where fault lies, or whether the board has any interest in finding where that fault should be laid.
At the meeting, board member Lanora Nolan expressed dismay that none of the public speakers mentioned the kids. The school district has a larger responsibility than just the education of children, however. It needs to be responsible to taxpayers — the “adult issues” Nolan bemoans.
She also said the delay of the fields is not in the best interest of kids. I hope she looks into who is responsible for this mishandling of this process.
She wants to “get the legal boundaries changed” so that the board is never in the position of not being able to vote on what’s best for kids. It may not occur to her that if the process had been managed correctly from the start, the board probably could have voted at that meeting on a contract that would get new fields for the fall.
Citizen comment about Nolan’s remarks that I received included these:
“The mindset that what is best for the kids should override how much something costs, according to Nolan.”
“The truth of the matter is, the Wichita school board approved the bidding process in a manner, as explained by their own attorney, that was in violation of state law, and therefore he advised the board to withdraw its approval of the turf contract. If the ‘kids’ were damaged in any way, it would appear to me that the responsibility for that damage should rest solely with the governing body that voted to approve what turned out to be a potentially legally flawed contract bid.”
“Anyone who speaks up for the people who pay USD 259 taxes is subjected to anger and scorn from the board. I can’t recall any board member ever expressing any concern about the parents, grandparents, and/or other taxpayers who struggle to pay for the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter while facing ever increasing taxes courtesy of the USD 259 board. The board loves to talk about children from low income families in the district who are eligible for free or reduced lunches. … Did anyone on the board ever consider the possibility that high taxes might be a major cause of low family income and poverty?”
“I believe Ms. Nolan’s rant should have been more appropriately directed towards herself, the school board, and the people the board holds responsible for creating or managing board contracts. The board approved what turned out to be a flawed and — what its own attorney confirmed — an illegal contract. Who was responsible with this error? Does the board’s attorney bear any responsibility for this error? Do the board’s attorneys have errors and omission insurance the board can levy against? Who was responsible for creating the turf project specifications? Was there an architectural firm responsible for this project? What responsibility do they bear?”
Answering this question, I spoke with Joe Johnson of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, the firm that is managing the overall bond project. He told me that his firm wasn’t involved in this turf vendor selection process, and they’re not taking their 1% management fee for this. Perhaps if this firm had been involved this mess could have been avoided — an example where Nolan’s warning of “buying on the cheap” might apply.