School Board Extends Moss Adams Contract

The Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) school board has approved a three-year contract extension with the accounting firm Moss Adams, LLP, which was hired by the district to conduct performance audits for Measure E and Measure BH funds.

During its July 11 meeting, the school board voted to extend the contract with Moss Adams through 2025 at a cost of $217,500. 

“Retaining the same auditor will allow consistency between bond and audit reports,” a district report said.

The firm was first hired during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Funds for the three-year contract extension will be paid out by Measure E and Measure BH.

In addition to approving the contract extension with Moss Adams, the school district approved several contract amendments that will be paid for by Measure BH funds toward the ongoing campus modernization effort, including $12,000 for shade structures at Horace Mann Elementary School with tBP Architecture; $7,000 with Architects MSP for upgrades on the Beverly Vista Middle School’s student mental health and wellness center; and an $18,200 increase to the nearly $15 million contract with HMC Group for architectural and engineering services for the El Rodeo seismic retrofit and modernization.

The approval of the contracts comes as the school district continues to make progress on construction on the district’s school campuses, including Beverly Hills High School, Beverly Vista Middle School and El Rodeo Elementary School. 

Additionally, the board approved a BHHS baseball field naming and charitable pledge agreement.

Board members also spent time on the topic of cell phone policies for students at Beverly Hills High School and Beverly Vista Middle School. The discussion, Board President Noah Margo explained, was for “direction only,” meaning there was no vote on it. 

At issue was the “off and put away” policy, and whether it makes sense.

“The administration’s concern is that the off and put away is following a policy where you’re disciplining and giving consequences to really good kids who are most likely addicted to it, or it’s an accident—they look at it, they take it out,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy said. “The administration feels when the policy was in our district to have it off and put away, they spent more time doing the discipline and consequences behind the phone.”

Board Member and Clerk Mary Wells said she thinks a strict cell phone policy makes sense for the middle school. High school students, she said, ought to be able to regulate their own usage.

Meanwhile, Board Member Judy Manouchehri spoke out strongly against cell phones in schools. 

“My concern is using the phones is almost like giving the kids a smoking break,” she said. While she acknowledged some students have a legitimate reason for having the phone, such as remaining in touch with their parents throughout the day, “I don’t want the exceptions to take over the rule.”

The BHUSD policies for cell phone use depend on the age of the student. For elementary school students, phones are supposed to be off and away until the student gets to the gate after school. At the middle school level and high school levels, students are allowed to bring mobile devices to school, but the phones must be turned off and always put away in class. There is more leeway for middle school and high school students when in between classes and during lunch.

The July 11 meeting was the first with the school board’s new student board member, Sofia Lifson. District leadership also welcomed three new staff members: Ben Wardrop, the district’s new student services director; Beverly Hills High School Assistant Principal Shannon Kobielusz; and Horace Mann Elementary School Assistant Principal Yvette Walker.

Bregy provided an update on the Behavior and Accountability Advisory Panel, which brings together civic and religious leaders, business owners and others on how to address behavioral issues among BHUSD students. Bregy said he was proud of the people who have come out for the group.

“I think it can be an intimidating group,” Bregy said. “We’ve got a lot of movers and shakers in this group. This is not a committee just to have a committee.”

The district highlighted upcoming events, including BHPD’s National Night Out event. The Aug. 1 program is an opportunity, Bregy said, to meet the school board members, the district superintendent, school principals and assistant principals and other school leaders, all of whom will be in attendance. 

Additionally, as part of the Human Relations Commission’s “Beverly Hills Reads!” series, a discussion with Bonnie Garmus, author of the bestselling novel, “Lessons in Chemistry,” is taking place at the City Hall Municipal Gallery on Aug. 27. Retired Beverly Hills High School educator Julie Goler is participating in the discussion. 

Bregy noted many BHHS students and community members are reading Garmus’ book.

“We are excited to be able to do these types of things in our city,” the superintendent said. 

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