At its July 27 meeting, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education reviewed Purchase Order Report No. 2 for 2021-2022. The order for supplies, services, and equipment totaled some $3,630,478.95. That sum included $664,181.05 from the General Fund, $95,201.90 from the Measure E Fund and $2,871,096.00 from the Measure BH Fund.
Board members took issue with the $2,850.000 designated from Measure BH for payment to Team Concept Development Services, Inc. for Bond Program Management for Security.
Team Concepts is Don Blake’s company hired by BHUSD to oversee management of bond funds.
During the meeting, Board member Mary Wells questioned the $2.8 million expenditure to manage bond funds for a security program whose parameters are not fully known yet.
“We have a purchase order for bond management for security in the amount of $2,800,000,” Wells said. “My issue with it is that I am not comfortable approving this when I do not have an overview of the security program…until we have this information, I’m just not comfortable approving dollars in this amount.”
Wells added that she had been requesting an overview of the security program since she came on the Board. To date it has not happened. Wells also pointed out that the bond budget itself earmarked $2 million for total security expenditures.
“I don’t see how that adds up if we’re spending $2.8 million just for the bond management part of the program for security,” she said.
Wells’ skepticism is justified, according to documents reviewed by the Courier. An April 21 District report for Measure BH project expenditures shows an overall budget for District-wide security of $2.2. million, based on a 2018 budget (the most recent one available). The same report shows payments to Team Concept Development Services, Inc. in the amount of $1.76 million during the period from July 1, 2020 to March 27, 2021 for construction management.
The question of why an additional $2.8 million payment is in order is one Wells hopes will be addressed at a Study Session on this matter on Sept. 2. (Two prior Study Sessions on the same topic have been canceled.)
Board President Rachelle Marcus shared a viewpoint similar to the one expressed by Wells. At the Board meeting, Marcus noted, “I’m really kind of puzzled that all of this is coming up right now and we haven’t studied the plan itself. So, I personally would like to withhold the $2,850,000 on the purchase order.”
Marcus moved to amend the approval of the ratification of the Purchase Order, minus the purchase order for Team Concept Development Services Inc. for bond program management on security.
As acknowledged on the record by BHUSD officials during the Board meeting, the rejected item will not have an immediate impact on security for the start of the school year. In fact, the Board approved Amendment No. 2 in their contract with Nastec International, Inc. for armed security agent services, adding an additional officer at Beverly Hills High School, with a total of three now. At Hawthorne School, Horace Mann and Beverly Vista Middle School, two Nastec guards will be always assigned. Additionally, the Board has approved contracts with CSEA for unarmed security guards, who are assigned to each campus.
The Courier will update this story as events unfold.
Additional Matters Considered by the Board
In addition to the Purchase Orders, the Board also considered other orders of business regarding the upcoming school year. Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy encouraged BHUSD staff and students aged 12-years-old and above to obtain vaccinations against COVID-19. In order to limit the potential spread of the virus, BHUSD is strongly discouraging non-essential visitors on campus. With classroom capacity limits lifted, three-foot distancing will be maintained when possible. And face masks will be required in all indoor environments. (Currently, face coverings are optional in outdoor settings.)
“This is the beginning of a new school year,” Bregy said. “We’re very fortunate if you think about it. We’re one of the very few kinds of industries if you will that has an opportunity for a fresh start every single year.”
The District will conduct daily temperature checks, provide COVID-19 testing on site and impose a 10-day quarantine should someone test positive. If a student tests positive or comes in close contact with someone who did, the school will provide the student with instruction to keep up with what’s happening in the classroom while in isolation.
“At this time, public schools cannot mandate vaccines for our students,” Bregy said. “This would be something that the state would have to decide, and then we would have to implement it if the state makes that decision. But, as a public school district, we cannot require the COVID-19 vaccine for students.”
The Board also approved an amendment to the independent study board policy BP 6158, and administrative regulation 6158 for the 2021-2022 school year to meet the requirements of AB 130, which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on July 9 this year. For the 202122 school year only, AB130 requires school districts and county offices of education to offer independent study as an education option. This requirement does not apply to charter schools. Still, BHUSD will return with a full face-to-face instructional model.
“Schooling done in person, when possible, feasible and safe, is perhaps our best notion developmentally for children,” said Board Member Amanda Stern. “I don’t want to depart too much from that, however, I’m glad that there is a provision such as AB130 as needed.”
The Board also approved its second three-year employment agreement with Bregy in the position of superintendent, beginning on July 1, 2022, and expiring on June 30, 2025. “He is dedicated and hardworking, he instituted the three-year strategic plan, and he has one of the most talented cabinet which surrounds him in being able to accomplish everything he does,” Marcus said. “I am thrilled that we have such a consistent and strong administration.”
At the end of the meeting, Wells made a reference to Terry Tao’s legal engagement letter that was removed from the agenda for approval. The Board is in the process of reviewing the legal contract. “I have been reviewing our legal fees. I really feel that this is somewhat of a blind spot for us and I think we can do better,” said Wells. She went on to say that the District needs to improve the process for making legal expenditures to be more judicious with its spending.