Archive for February, 2013

Darlene Lawson, 75, A Champion for Equal Education

By Ken A. Epstein

Darlene Lawson served on the Oakland Board of Education from 1983 to January 1993. Here she celebrates her second inauguration with five of her seven children: Loretta Little, Vida Byrd, Billie Wright, Annette Wright and Charlene Byrd.

Darlene Lawson served on the Oakland Board of Education from 1983 to January 1993. Here she celebrates her second inauguration with five of her seven children: Loretta Little, Vida Byrd, Billie Wright, Annette Wright and Charlene Byrd.

Businesswoman Darlene Ann Lawson-Scott, 75, who left a lasting impact on Oakland schools during two terms on the Board of Education, died on Jan 13.  A fighter for equal education for flatland children and families, she was the first African American woman to be elected to the school board.

Known as Darlene Lawson when she ran and won a seat in District 5, she served on the board from July 1983 thru January 1993. She was selected by fellow board members to serve as board president in 1985 and 1987.

As a parent, she started going to PTA meetings where “She learned that the hill schools were getting more resources than flatland schools. That’s why she ran for office – she wanted to be an advocate for flatland parent s and children,” said Lawson’s daughter Loretta Little.

In one campaign brochure, written in Spanish and English, she described herself as “Someone who will not sell out.” She said she supported classroom curriculum that shows “an appreciation of the richness of the cultural difference and similarities of our children.”

She also backed: “No schools closings;” “A program in teacher training for prospective Latino, African-American and Asian teachers;” and “school safety with parental involvement.”

On the board, Lawson developed committees so members could make informed decisions on finances, budget, disciplinary hearings and facilities. Years later, the state trustee who was assigned to Oakland disbanded the committees.“Without committees, the board has no way of doing anything but rubberstamp” staff decisions, said Sylvester Hodges, who served with Lawson on the board. He represented District 7.

The disciplinary committee reviewed expulsions to make sure youngsters – who may have done something wrong and childish – were not needlessly kicked out of school, destroying their futures.

Darlene showed she was a leader in her personal and her political life,” said Hodges. “She had many different sides to who she was. She brought people together as a family,” he said.

Lawson made waves when she focused on unequal funding to schools in the richer and poorer areas of the city, Hodges said. “We were very disappointed with the difference in funding allocations between flatlands and the hills. Darlene was quick to point that out, and people didn’t like that.”

Lawson and other members of the board’s African American majority faced a “public lynching,” during those years, Hodges said.  “Despite the barrage of attacks from the press and officials, he said, “She did not back down because she was being attacked. She was brave.”

Oakland education leader and professor Kitty Kelly Epstein also remembered Lawson as someone who stood up for Oakland children. “Darlene was one of the first elected officials in Oakland to conscientiously advocate for flatlands residents,” Epstein said. “She was an effective parent advocate before she ran for school board, and she courageously stood up against the ‘old-boy’ and ‘old-girl’ network that thought they should continue to run Oakland politics.”

Lawson was born April 20, 1937 in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Richard Woods Sr. and Leoma Woods-Dixon.  A “PK” or Preacher’s Kid, she had a very strict upbringing.

The oldest of nine children, she was took care of her siblings and other family members when their parents and grandparents passed away.

At her early age she joined the African Apostle Methodist Church. She graduated in 1955 from Douglas High School and received an AA degree in business from St. Louis Community College. Her first job was at a fast food restaurant. She also worked in nursing and served as a Girl Scout leader and swim coach.

Even after she relocated to California, she was quick to travel back to St. Louis whenever a family member needed her.

After leaving the school board, she earned a real estate license.  She helped youth find jobs and worked through the City of Oakland to help women on welfare become first-time homeowners.

Lawson married David Scott in 1990. A successful entrepreneur, she was a daycare provider, real estate broker and owned and several businesses, including nightclubs.

She also found time to co-author a two-volume book on her family’s history, “Genealogy of a Family Before and After Slavery,” conducting research at plantations and locating ancestors who had worked on the railroads.

She spent her last years at a convalescent home in Alameda. Though ill, she advocated for the rights of the elderly and disabled and served on the board of the home.

Lawson was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Ronald P. Dixon and Robert E. Woods and a sister, Carol McDuffie (McDaniel).

She leaves her husband of 23 years, Dave Scott, sons David Scott Jr. and Keith Lawson and daughters Charlene Byrd, Loretta Little, Vida Byrd, Billie Jo Wright and Annette Wright.

She also leaves brothers Richard Woods, Jack Woods and Byron Dixon, sisters Marieda Woods (Irons) and Betty Booth: and 12 grand children; and many “god-children” who had adopted into her heart over the years.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 23, 2013  (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

Looking for Answers: Why Did Oakland Lose $600,000 for Jobs?

By Ken A. Epstein

Part III

The head of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board has submitted a memo to the City Council blaming the administration of former Mayor Ron Dellums for the loss of over $600,000 in federal funds for unemployed workers, nearly two years after Dellums left office.

John Bailey

John Bailey

Several problems with carrying out the grant “were not disclosed until October 2011, more than halfway through the funding period,” said John Bailey, executive director of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board in a Feb. 15 memo to Mayor Jean Quan, City Council and City Administrator Deanna Santana.

“When this new administration discovered these problems, staff worked with the California Employment Development Department (EDD), making every effort to correct the contract errors and obtain a three-month extension to the original grant to allow us to expend as much of the grant as possible,” Bailey wrote.

However, according to the state EDD, which was responsible for overseeing the federal money, Oakland had received support and warnings with enough time to spend the money to help the unemployed.

“During the initial phase of this project, the state hosted periodic conference calls with all 20 of this grant’s project operators (grantees). Many of them were challenged to get their projects operational due to their limited expertise running this type of training program,” said Dan Stephens, of the Communications Office, EDD Public Affairs Branch.

“The city was periodically reminded of the need to develop a corrective action plan that would get their project implemented quickly,” Stephens said. “Warnings were issued … primarily through the conference calls … with all the grantees,” he said.

“The city’s current Workforce Investment Act (WIA) administrator John Bailey and his staff were first notified in late October 2011, that the City needed to deobligate (send back) funding from this project or present a written justification substantiating why they should be allowed to retain this funding as the availability of this funding to the state was scheduled to end on June 30, 2012,” Stephens said.

“It’s easy to blame people who are no longer here about why things didn’t work. If you think about the unemployment rate in our city, there should have been some urgency on the part of our administrators,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks.

The Dellums administration applied for and received the National Emergency On-the-Job Training Grant, which was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from the Department of Labor in Spring 2010.
Two issues required the new administration to make changes to the original plan. The original plan proposed to train first-time workers, such as the formerly incarcerated, rather than placing laid-off workers in on-the-job training positions, as required by the Department of Labor.

The plan also proposed to utilize Volunteers of America and the Youth Employment Partnership to implement the program, though they had no OJT background or were they part of an open bidding process, as required by the state.

Bailey, who took his city position the beginning of 2011, was previously CEO of Volunteers of America, one of the agencies that had been originally selected by the city to implement the grant.

In part, the WIB staff has said it had no time to find new agencies to implement OJT programs because the Request for Proposal (RFP) progress was too lengthy to complete in the remaining months. But those who are familiar with the procedures say the state accepts other methods of competitive bidding, such as a Request for Quote (RFQ), which could take as few as two weeks.

“They couldn’t get it together to do an RFP. Are you kidding me?” stated Councilmember Brooks.

Initially, $400,000 was sent back on Dec. 27, 2011.  An additional $125,462 was sent back on May 7, 2012, Stephens said.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

Left in the grant was $200,000, for which the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC) received a contract from the city three weeks before the originally scheduled sunset date. PIC was able to spend $80,849 by Sept. 30, after the state granted an extension.

An additional $119,150.72 was returned on Nov. 2, 2012 as part of the city’s “closeout,” Stephens said.

In addition, Bailey said WIB has since January 2011 been involved in the complicated process of taking citywide workforce system responsibilities for picking and evaluating agencies to implement programs and to distribute timely funding to these agencies.

“The transition of system administration to the city is nearly accomplished,” he wrote.

“It speaks volumes of the ill preparedness of the (city) staff to take over these functions,” said Brooks. “It has been historically true about the city that we don’t run problems well. The people who suffer are not those who make over $100,000 a year. It’s the people who are supposed to be served by these programs.”

At least one head of a nonprofit who regularly attends WIB meetings warned City Manager Santana in 2011 that the city was facing the loss of federal job funds.

“The WIB has already forfeited some of its funding because they had not produced a plan to the State of California for the use of these funds in a timely manner,” wrote Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO in a Nov. 16, 2011 letter to Santana.

“We look forward to an early response which provides an explanation for this irresponsibility and indicates how the problems that exist can be addressed,” wrote Grinage, who never received a response to her letter.

Vice Mayor Larry Reid is planning to hold a public hearing on why the city lost the money and other issues related to the city’s handling of federal job-training fund.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 22, 2013 (www.postnewsgoup.com)

Agencies Say WIB Is Choking Services to Youth

By Ken A. Epstein

Agencies working with the city’s Oakland Workforce Investment Board are saying bureaucratic obstacles are choking nonprofit groups that depend on city money to provide counseling and job training opportunities. Particularly hard hit are small nonprofits that help

Jumoke Hinton Hodge

Jumoke Hinton Hodge

teenagers and young adults.

Speaking at the Feb. 7 WIB meeting at City Hall, agencies said they are still waiting for funding for the current fiscal year. Some have received their contracts as late as January for services that were supposed begin July 1, 2012. Agencies are also asking why they have not received the 20 percent funding advances that are part of their contracts, needed to jump start services until they receive funding for work after it is performed.

“Late contracts, non-contracts, are not a little problem, they are a huge problem. They are a pernicious and persistent problem. It’s time to say you’re going to address the concerns, said Richard de Jauregui, planning director of the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC).

“There is a growing disconnect between this body and its providers,” said de Jauregui, who suggested the WIB hold workshops with the agencies it is funding to learn what they do and how to support their work.

Responding, WIB chairman Bryan Parker said the concerns are legitimate. “I personally, see this is a huge issue. I understand people cannot do their work without (the money).”

William “Bill” Patterson, who represents the Oakland NAACP on the WIB, says he wants the board to understand that the nonprofits are working with young people who are at risk of dying by violence.

“I don’t think anyone here understands the gravity of the situation. This is what your providers have to deal with. There is not enough energy put into giving them the resources they need to do the job.”

Asked about advances, WIB Executive Director John Bailey pledged to take care of the problem, “They have not been advanced. We have been working on a two-week timeline,” starting Feb. 7, said Bailey, who has stated that he is “carrying out the wishes of the mayor.”

“Rather than quibbling about this year’s (advances) to agencies,” said Agnes Ubalde, WIB vice chair who represents Wells Fargo Bank, “The advance policy is something that is going to be handled administratively. The staff is working with the City Controllers Office so we can make sure it is addressed for this one-time advance.”

“It’s not that we don’t want people to get paid,” Ubalde said. But others commented that the program year is more than one half over, and the advances have not yet been issued.

If nonprofits do not have money, Patterson said, “They have to lay people off and wait to see what you are going to do. For the little providers, that knocks them out of the ball game.”

According to some community members, the city and the Mayor’s Office are in violation of Oakland’s 2008 Prompt Payment Policy, an ordinance that requires “payment within 20 business days after receipt of an invoice for purchase of goods and/or services applicable to … the city with respect … to non-profit and for profit entities contracted to manage or operate city facilities or public programs or concessions on city-owned property.”

Ron Muhammad

Ron Muhammad

Also raising concerns was Jumoke Hinton Hodge, a member of the Oakland Board of Education who also works for a nonprofit agency

“I understand how important your role is, how much money you are supposed to be ushering into our community so our young people are served,” she said.

“I am a bit dismayed,” she said, questioning “whether there is clarity about what is being done and whether a system is in place.”

Hinton Hodge said she was scheduled to speak that evening at the memorial for a young victim of gun violence. “My children are dying,” she said. I want to work with you.”

“This is potentially a lawsuit,” said West Oakland community activist Ron Muhammad. “Those who are supposed to be served have not been served. We have a whole district (West Oakland) that hasn’t been served in a couple of years.

“Something has to be done. This has set up suicide for some of our agencies.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

State Reveals How City Lost $600,000 to Help Workers

By Ken A. Epstein
Part 2

City of Oakland officials are explaining how they lost $600,000 in federal job training money to provide training for laid off-workers, after the loss was made public by Vice Mayor Larry Reid at last week’s meeting of the City’s Council Community and Economic Development Committee.

Vice Mayor Larry Reid

Vice Mayor Larry Reid

The city had received the federal National Emergency Grant funds, administered by the state Employment Development Department (EDD), in 2010 during the last months of Mayor Ron Dellums´ administration. The grant was originally supposed to be spent by June 30, 2012.

The purpose of the funds was to provide on-the-job training to people who were suffering  “prolonged unemployment” as a result of the last recession, according to Dan Stephens, of the Communications Office, EDD Public Affairs Branch.

The City of Oakland was one of 20 agencies awarded this funding based on unemployment rate, poverty levels, and other labor market data, Stephens told the Post in an email response to questions.

The city’s ability to utilize the grant was initially slowed down because the two agencies that were supposed to spend the money had not received their awards through an open bidding process.  Nor did the two agencies, Youth Employment Partnership and Volunteers of America, have experience running on-the-job training programs.

To use the money, the state required the city to remedy two issues: it had to conduct a public process to find agencies, and the agencies chosen had to be able to properly run  the job training programs.

“During the initial phase of this project, the state hosted periodic conference calls with all 20 of this grant’s project operators (grantees). Many of them were challenged to get their projects operational due to their limited expertise running this type of training program,” said Stephens.

“(Oakland) also struggled with some provider procurement issues (public recruitment of agencies), which further delayed implementation of their project. As a result, their contract for this project wasn’t even finalized until August 2011,” Stephens said. “The city was periodically reminded of the need to develop a corrective action plan that would get their project implemented quickly.”

“Warnings were issued periodically primarily through the conference calls … with all the grantees. There was particular emphasis put on having the better performing grantees share best practices with the others,” said Stephens.

“The city’s current Workforce Investment Act (WIA) administrator John Bailey and his staff were first notified in late October 2011, that the City needed to deobligate (send back) funding from this project or present a written justification substantiating why they should be allowed to retain this funding as the availability of this funding to the state was scheduled to end on June 30, 2012,” he said.

“In early November 2011, the state communicated a specific request to Mr. Bailey to deobligate $300,000 of the original award of $725,462. This request was subsequently modified in mid-December 2011 to increase the amount to $400,000,” he said

According to Stephens, the state provided assistance to the city through a variety of means including the periodic conference calls, including advice and support in trying to address the issues of seeking new agencies  that could provide on-the-job training services.

Initially,  $400,000 was sent back on Dec. 27, 2011.  An additional $125,462 was sent back on May 7, 2012, Stephens said.

Left in the grant was $200,000, for which the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC) received a contract from the city three weeks before the originally scheduled sunset date. PIC was able to spend $80,849 by Sept. 30, after

Pat Kernighan

Pat Kernighan

An additional $119,150.72 was returned on Nov. 2, 2012 as part of the city’s “closeout,” Stephens said.

WIB Executive Director John Bailey, who took his city position the beginning of 2011, was previously CEO of Volunteers of America, which was one of the agencies that had been  originally selected by city to implement the grant.

“This was a grant from the federal government,” Bailey said. “The funds were pretty restrictive in terms of use.”

“What we discovered, once looked at this,” he said, was the way the city had designed the programs “was out of line with federal requirements on how the money should be spent.”

In addition, the city had not gone through the correct process “in picking the agencies,” he said.   “We were much more interested in staying within the federal guidelines than spending the money.”

“Those two things together created quite a challenge in being able to spend the money within the timeline,” he said.

“When we talked to them (the state), they said they would not waive the (agency selection) process,” he said. “There was a concern that (it) would be a very lengthy time process,” he said. “A decision was made that we needed to act on this right away.”

“To save some of the money,” he said, a contract was awarded to PIC a few months before the September 2012 cutoff date.

“It’s a real shame when Oakland can’t take advantage of that much money for such a critical need. We need to make sure that never happens again,” said City Council President Pat Kernighan, who is also a WIB member.

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker, who is WIB chair and a member of the Oakland Port Commission, said he was aware of the issue, which goes back to before his tenure. The city took over more of local workforce development functions in 2010. “There could have been better planning at the end of the Dellums administration, “when the city took back” some of the administrative functions, he said.

But now those administrative issues have been resolved, he said. “There are other funds that are out there,” that the city can obtain, Parker said. “You can look at where we were, or you can look at where we are and where we are going.”

According to one WIB member, it was the Dellums administration that brought the jobs funding to Oakland. And it was the Quan administration that managed to lose it.

“What we need is competent leadership,” said La Tronda Lumpkins, executive director of Pivotal Points Services, a West Oakland nonprofit that serves foster youth. “We have concerns about dollars going back to the state,” she said, speaking at this week’s WIB meeting.  “This is a conversation not just about Pivotal Point  but the entire community. We should stop wasting dollars that should be given to the community.

“We are so beyond wasting dollars – we are wasting lives.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 7, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

City Sent Back $600,000 to State for Failure to Train Laid Off Workers

By Ken A. Epstein

Part I

The City of Oakland has sent back $600,000 in federal funding to provide job training for laid-off workers that it failed to utilize for two years.

The loss of funding was not made public until this week, when Vice Mayor Larry Reid asked for staff to prepare a report on what happened to the money at the Tuesday meeting of the City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee.

The city received the federal National Emergency Grant funds in 2010 during the last months of the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums.  The money was returned to the state, which administers the funding, between December 2011 and September 2012, according to Post sources.

Larry Reid

Larry Reid

The original grant application from the city specified that two organizations, Volunteers of America and Youth Employment Partnership, would implement the services. However, no contracts were executed by the city to fulfill this intent.

At press time, the Post had not received answers to questions from the Office of Mayor Jean Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana or John Bailey, executive director of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board.

The city’s responses will be included in part two of this story.

In requesting the report from staff, Reid asked, “What job funds have been returned to the state or the federal government for the city’s failure to utilize them?”

In addition to questioning the return of the federal job training, Reid also asked for a public hearing on the functioning of the city’s workforce investment system, as requested in a Dec. 12 letter to the City Administrator from Bill Patterson for the Oakland Branch of the NAACP.

“Given that there was $600,000 given back to the state when we have heightened crime, chronic unemployment and communities in dire straits, it’s unacceptable,” said La Tronda Lumpkins, executive director of Pivotal PointYouth Services in West Oakland, a provider that receives funding from the Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB).

La Tronda Lumpkins

La Tronda Lumpkins

Lumpkins, who spoke at the council committee meeting, said her agency has been suffering because it is delivering services to young people but did not receive its contract from the city for this fiscal year that started July 1 in a timely way nor the advance in funds as was part of WIB policy.

“We actually just received a signed (contract) this month.  With that delay comes a delay in payments (to Pivotal Point),” she said. “It has a devastating impact on small nonprofits.”

Bill Patterson, who represents the NAACP on the WIB, said in an interview, “Mr. Reid (is) raising some very important issues that need additional public scrutiny. We know  the link between public safety and people having hope and opportunity in our labor market.”

“The trend over the past few years has worked to the extreme disadvantage of small nonprofits and the people those nonprofits serve,” said Patterson.

“It is particularly the small nonprofits that can reach out to those who are most in need and most marginalized,” he continued. “And it is these small nonprofits that are not being helped, supported or uplifted in the current situation.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 1, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)