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Concerns Raised at OUSD Over Jackson’s $30,000 Per Month, Conflict of Interest

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Oakland Unified School District officials are struggling to explain why there is no conflict of interest in hiring Lance Jackson as the interim chief of the district’s bond-funded construction projects and that Jackson’s $30,000 a month salary is not excessive.

Jackson is Chief Operating Officer of Seville Group Inc. (SGI), which has a nearly $11 million, three-year contract to provide project management oversight of OUSD’s construction projects. He was hired by the school district as the interim replacement for Tim White, who was forced out of his position as head of Facilities Management in February after 14 years in the district.

Jackson is being paid out of school bond funds for what the district estimates is 75 percent of the work for which Tim White was responsible and is earning more than double what White earned.

“There’s been quite a lot of press about the selection of the individual who is from the main project management company (that works for OUSD) to be in that position on an interim basis. There are some concerns that I have, and I think some others have, that (this) poses a conflict of interest and also some concerns for the amount of money that’s being paid to that individual,” said Patricia Williams, vice chair of the district’s Measures A, B, and J Independent Citizens’ School Facilities Bond Oversight Committee, speaking at the committee’s April 1 meeting.

Lance Jackson, COO of Seville Group Inc.

Lance Jackson, COO of Seville Group Inc.

According to local attorney Dan Siegel, formerly a Oakland Board of Education member and also formerly general counsel for the school district, Jackson “clearly has a classical conflict of interest” in holding a position in OUSD where he oversees a company for which he is an executive.

“(For example), if a consultant who works for his company does something wrong or that is inappropriate, he is going to feel reluctant to take any action because he’s going to have his company’s interests as well as OUSD’s (in mind). He is supposed to be loyal to the school district,” said Siegel, explaining that potential conflict issues are not limited to billing and the signing of invoices.

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

Defending the district’s position at the April 1 meeting of the bond oversight committee, District General Counsel Jacqueline Minor described how she decided that Jackson should earn $30,000 per month. She said his pay rate is $200 an hour, he receives no benefits, and he is expected to be working for the district at least 12 hours a day.

She said that Jackson is being paid out of the district’s bond funds. Seventy-five percent of Tim (White’s) salary was paid out of the bond, she said, and the other 25 percent from the general fund to cover his responsibilities for day-to-day operations, custodial services and buildings and grounds.

“(However), all the work we’ve asked Lance to do is bond-related work,” said Minor.

“He’s been the principle lead for SGI in our district for some time,” she said. “He knows the district, he knows the team, he knows the work, he knows the projects.”

As for potential conflicts of interest, Minor said, Seville Group is subject to the district’s general conflict of interest policies. “The superintendent and I talked, and we decided…the way we would handle (it),” she said.

None of the invoices and other financial decisions related to SGI will come across Jackson’s desk, Minor said. Instead, Senior Business Officer Vernon Hal will have overall responsibility for all of the finances related to SGI.

“Lance is not approving invoices, purchase orders, contract extensions,” Minor said.

Minor said the district originally planned to send a contract for Jackson to the board but rescinded it when she decided it was not necessary.

“The work that Lance is doing is already covered by the SGI contract,” Minor said. “And I decided – it was my decision –(that) it didn’t make sense for the board to approve an amendment when there was already a contract that had sufficient funds in it to cover this additional work.”

“It’s my opinion that that the work Lance and SGI (are doing) is permissible under the (conflict of interest) law,” she said.

Another member of the bond oversight committee, Ariel Bierbaum, said she was concerned of how Jackson’s position would affect staff in the Facilities Department, “now that Mr. Jackson is serving as both consultant and client.”

Renee Swayne

Renee Swayne

Renee Swayne, chair of the bond oversight committee, told Minor that she was concerned that when the district hired Jackson, it released a statement saying that he was the only person in the “whole department who has the knowledge, skills or the ability” to do the job.

“I personally think the superintendent owes the employees in that department an apology,” said Swayne, adding that what Wilson said was “demeaning” to the OUSD staff.

In response to questions from the Post, district spokesman Troy Flint clarified how Jackson is being paid.

“OUSD is not paying any additional monies to SGI or to Lance beyond the contract with SGI , which predates Lance’s appointment as interim head of the facilities department,” said Flint. “Any money Lance receives would come out of the existing $10.89 million contract with SGI, and it would be up to SGI to determine how to distribute that money.”

Jackson has not taken a leave of absence from his company to work for the district, Flint said.

“Lance is still employed by SGI. His current work for OUSD is a function of his long-term employment at SGI, so there’s no reason he would take a leave of absence.”

California Black Media

California State Budget: Legislature Announces Counter Proposal to Gov’s 2024-25 Plan

Last week, members of both houses of the California legislature discussed plans to close the state’s $27.6 billion budget gap, restore funds to build housing, preserve social services, and help the state save money. The legislative hearings on the budget took place nearly three weeks after Gov. Newsom presented the May revision of his 2024-25 annual spending plan.

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California Assembly Speaker Robert A. Rivas
California Assembly Speaker Robert A. Rivas.

By California Black Media

Last week, members of both houses of the California legislature discussed plans to close the state’s $27.6 billion budget gap, restore funds to build housing, preserve social services, and help the state save money.

The legislative hearings on the budget took place nearly three weeks after Gov. Newsom presented the May revision of his 2024-25 annual spending plan.

On May 30, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Senate Pro Tem Mike McGuire (D-North Coast) announced a joint legislative budget proposal on May 30 that saves approximately half of the state’s reserves for future budget years.

“Fixing California’s deficit means making tough choices, so the Assembly came to these negotiations focused on preserving programs that matter most to Californians: lowering the cost of living, expanding affordable housing access and sustaining public services,” said Rivas.

The Democratic Party Budget Committee reviewed the governor’s proposed spending plan to remove various programs and reduce funding for agencies statewide. Newsom’s proposed cuts to public schools across California prompted teachers’ unions to push back with advertisements pressuring the governor to reconsider his budget plans.

The California Teachers Association argued that public schools could lose billions in the next few years resulting in a loss of teachers and resources in the state.

“This agreement is sound and makes the necessary tough decisions meeting the needs of this critical time, all while maintaining our commitment to strong public schools, investing in desperately needed resources in homelessness and workforce housing, health care access, resources to keep our communities fire safe, key climate investments and more,” said McGuire.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance, said that Gov. Newsom agreed to a temporary arrangement with the teachers’ union to delay spending cuts. The parties agreed to suspend Proposition 98, a law that guarantees an annual minimum amount of funding for public schools.

“The result of that is an agreement we can both support, and that advances two shared goals: avoid multi-billion-dollar cuts to schools in the near term and provide greater predictability for school budgets in the long term,” said Palmer.

The State Senate held budget hearings this week to finalize the plan due by June 15. By state law, once the budget plan is passed, the Governor will have to finalize it by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

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Activism

U.S. Rep. Kamlager-Dove Leads Discussion on Improving Black Student Learning, Test Scores

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

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Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).
Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) moderates a panel including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education during Roundtable on Equity in Education for Los Angeles Unified School District (R to L) beside Kamlager-Dove Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer, Los Angeles USD; Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Keith Linton, Founder, Boys to Gentlemen, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and LAUSD student Jonathan McGee. Photo by Lila Brown (CBM).

By Lila Brown, California Black Media

On April 8, U.S. Congressmember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA-37) moderated a roundtable focused on Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) strategies to improve Black student performance in classrooms.

Kamlager-Dove, who represents a district that covers parts of Los Angeles County, hopes that ideas shared at the event can be incorporated into models that can impact other regions across California, where Black students continue to fall behind their peers of other races and ethnicities.

Discussions at the event centered on LAUSD’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP) and other educational initiatives aimed at enhancing learning and boosting test scores.

“The Black Student Achievement Plan is unique in that it takes a community-centered approach to uplifting Black students,” said Kamlager-Dove during the event held at John Muir Middle School in Los Angeles.

“We must implement culturally responsive education in the classroom to challenge our students academically while giving them a sense of purpose,” she continued.

In 2023, nearly 70% of Black children in California fell below a passing mark on the state standardized English Language Arts exam, and only about 20% of those students were performing at grade level based on their scores on the math assessment test.

A variety of public education experts joined Kamlager on the panel, including Dr. Kortne Edogun-Ticey, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Education; Dr. Robert Whitman, Educational Transformation Officer at LAUSD; Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor and Dean at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education; and Keith Linton, founder of the non-profit Boys to Gentlemen. 

Jonathan McGee, a student who sits on the BSAP Student Advisory Council, also spoke during the panel.

The BSAP was approved by the LAUSD Board of Education in February of the 2020-21 school year. Funds have been earmarked to address the longstanding disparities in educational outcomes between Black students and their non-Black peers. Dating back to the landmark case, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional, positive outcomes for Black students continue to lag behind district and national averages for their non-Black counterparts.

Edogun-Ticey spoke about broader investments the federal government is making in education that directly impact Black students through The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

‘This administration did not shy away from the idea that we need resources for support which means billions of dollars in investment for HBCUs,” she explained.

BSAP strategies include partnering with Black families and local community; supporting the implementation of culturally and linguistically responsive and anti-racist practices; offering wrap-around support structures; and highlighting experiences that uplift the contributions of the Black community as motivation and models to develop positive Black student identity. Additionally, the BSAP provides increased staffing to support Black students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

“School districts across the country must push back against attacks on marginalized students by implementing programs like the BSAP, which should serve as a model for future initiatives,” Kamlager said.

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City Government

SUSD’s Dept. of Public Safety Achieves Compliance with State DOJ’s Five-Year Stipulated Judgment

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has ended monitoring of the Stockton Unified School District (District) and its Department of Public Safety (Department), concluding the five-year term of the stipulated judgment that addressed system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of Black and Latino students and students with disabilities.

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Official photo, SUSD Police Chief Mayra Franco. Official photo, Pastor Trena Turner of Stockton’s Victory In Praise Church. Victory in Praise Church photo.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Official photo, SUSD Police Chief Mayra Franco. Official photo, Pastor Trena Turner of Stockton’s Victory In Praise Church. Victory in Praise Church photo.

Special to the Post

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has ended monitoring of the Stockton Unified School District (District) and its Department of Public Safety (Department), concluding the five-year term of the stipulated judgment that addressed system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of Black and Latino students and students with disabilities.

The District has also committed to implementing a plan to further reduce disproportionalities in law enforcement referrals through school year 2026-2027, which will institutionalize the revised policies and practices and continue the progress made under the judgment.

“Over the past five years, the California Department of Justice and the Stockton Unified School District worked together to successfully implement the corrective actions set out in the stipulated judgment to protect the rights of students in schools,” Bonta said on April 11. 

“Today we can celebrate that the agreement has helped the District take important steps to address concerns regarding interactions between police officers and students and to promote an equitable and positive learning environment.

“This achievement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our educators, staff, students, and Department of Public Safety, said SUSD Supt. Dr. Michelle Rodriguez. “We reaffirm our commitment to continue the important changes and policies and remain steadfast in our mission to improve services and support for all students, ensuring that each child has the opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.”

“The Department is proud of the work that was completed surrounding the DOJ Agreement which has not only made us a better Department but has placed us at the forefront of progressive policing,” said SUSD Police Chief Mayra Franco.

“The consent decree was phase one. Now we must build on this momentum to cement the progress that has been made, and fix policdes and practices that continue to hurt SUSD students and families,” said Jasmine Dellafosse, Director of Organizing and Community Engagement at End Poverty in CA.

“The requisite collaboration that took place with community members and the Stockton Unified School District was an admirable beginning,” said Pastor Trena Turner, Victory In Praise Church. “Continued efforts of transparency and inclusion that outlasts the monitoring period, will be of paramount importance to further strengthen the district and ultimately improve the lived experience of our students.”

In 2019, a DOJ investigation concluded that the District’s policies and practices with respect to law enforcement referrals discriminated against Black and Latino students and students with disabilities. The investigation also found unconstitutional search and seizure practices.

DOJ and the District entered into a stipulated judgment that required significant reforms and a five-year monitoring period. As part of the stipulated judgment, which concluded on Feb. 19, the District:

  • Established clear policies and procedures limiting when school administrators refer students to law enforcement.
  • Created a formal diversion program in lieu of citations and arrests to address minor school-based offenses.
  • Revised policies and procedures relating to treatment of students with disabilities in order to prevent discrimination, including the hiring of a trained Disability Coordinator.
  • Created clear processes for school site administrators to refer students with mental health needs to support services rather than a referral to law enforcement.
  • Instituted mandatory annual training of all officers and staff regarding civil and constitutional rights, disability and special education laws, and elimination of bias.
  • Reformed use of force policies, procedures, and practices, including implementing a comprehensive review process.
  • Updated search and seizure policies.
  • Used data to track and analyze all arrests and referrals to law enforcement from schools; and
  • Established the Community Advisory Group, which collaborated with the District to provide input and review updated policies.

Overall, the judgment led to markedly improved outcomes for students. Total arrests of students dropped significantly; in school year 2018-2019, there were 155 arrests, compared to nine arrests during school year 2022-2023. Calls for service to the Department decreased by 54% and unwarranted calls for service decreased by 52%.

Under the disproportionality plan, the Community Advisory Group and Transformative Justice subcommittee, consisting of community organizations and other stakeholders, will continue to meet regularly to improve and reduce disparities in law enforcement referrals and receive and analyze disaggregated and anonymized District data on use of force, law enforcement contacts, citations, arrests, and calls for assistance.

The media office of California State Attorney General Rob Bonta is the source of this report.

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