Buildings and Grounds Workers Fear They Will Be Replaced by Consultants
By Ken A. Epstein
Lance Jackson, a $30,000-a-month, $360,000-a-year consultant hired by the Oakland Unified School District, has entered his second school year at the helm of the district’s Facilities Planning and
Jackson, who is listed on the OUSD website as interim deputy chief of the Facilities department, serves on the district’s top leadership body – the Executive Cabinet – and oversees the expenditure of at least $435 million in taxpayer bond money for the construction and renovation of school buildings.
When he was hired, the district told the Post that Jackson would be working only for a few months while the district conducted a national search to fill the position.
In a Feb. 18 email introducing the consultant, Supt. Antwan Wilson wrote, “Jackson will serve in this role pending the search and selection of a new Deputy Chief for Facilities Planning and Management.”
In addition to his work for Oakland Unified, Jackson is chief operating officer of Seville Group Inc. (SGI), a construction management firm that has a nearly $11 million, three-year contract to provide project management oversight of OUSD’s construction projects.
SGI’s contract is up at the end of December, and according to district insiders, OUSD is planning to extend the contract for another year.
Jackson was hired by the school district as the interim replacement for Tim White, who was forced out of his $156,000-a-year position as head of Facilities Management in February after 14 years in the district.
Originally, the district was planning to submit a contract to the Board of Education for Jackson’s work. In the face of community and school board opposition, his salary has been folded into the contract the district currently has with SGI.
Seville is being paid for Jackson’s work from school bond funds.
At the time when Tim White was forced out, employees told the Post they were demoralized by the loss of the popular supervisor. They said they were concerned by the lack of support from top management and the potential that they might be replaced by consultants.
The rift between some of the employees and the district appears to have only gotten worse in the months after White left.
Buildings and Grounds workers, who include plumbers, electricians, carpenters and gardeners and total about 80 employees, recently overwhelmingly rejected a new contract, which they feel guts their grievance procedure and sets them up to be fired and replaced by consultants.
Nearly 80 percent of the employees voted against the contract because of their concern that the “superintendent’s ultimate goal is to do away with the Building and Grounds Department and contract everything out to contractors, who do not have the best track record of accountability,” said Dennis Nichols, who works for Buildings and Grounds.
“The workers’ concerns are growing, especially among the people who have been around for a while and can read the writing on the wall – we can see what is happening,” said Nichols.
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 7, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)