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OP-ED: Lance Jackson Contract Is Critical to the Success of OUSD

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The leadership of the Oakland Unified School District facilities department is critical for the success of our schools.

There are hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at stake – small mistakes can become million dollar lawsuits or delays, and quality work, once done, endures for decades in the service of our children.

 

We approach every management decision keeping in mind our role as public servants and stewards of scare public resources that must be spent as judiciously as possible on behalf of our children.

That’s why I am focused on finding the best, diverse, talent we can to lead the OUSD facilities department for the long-term – ideally with the new person starting by the beginning of the next school year, while ensuring we have strong leadership in the interim.

To meet our interim facilities leadership needs, we have appointed a proven director, Lance Jackson, Senior VP of Operations at SGI, our primary construction management company, and one that ranks among the industry’s Top 100 firms nationally.

Lance served in this position previously, on a temporary basis in the fall of 2013 when the previous Facilities Director was on an extended leave. He performed well before, and that’s why we have looked to him again.

This is also a critical time for OUSD as we put nearly half a billion dollars in Measure J bond funds to work in the form of new schools and community facilities, and undertake major projects such as the Glenview renovation, Fremont High construction, the Central Kitchen, the Second Avenue project, our solar and sustainability effort, and many other initiatives.

This summer we will be going back to the market with another bond sale, and we need a proven industry face to lead this effort.

Talented people generally come at a price and Lance has proven his worth. With someone of Lance’s expertise working on a consultant basis, the price tag is often greater than for the same services from staff.

Initially, a separate contract was developed; then our team realized that was not necessary. The OUSD Board approved our current contract with SGI in August 2013.

This contract empowers Lance to advise the District on regulatory compliance; contract or employ other sub-consultants as necessary; coordinate the work of other professionals employed by the district related to capital projects; chair various meetings; and oversee professional quality, accuracy, estimates, reviews, studies, projections and construction costs for capital projects.

Lance is able to perform the work without conflict because we have various protections in place. First, he is an employee of SGI – not OUSD, and the duties and responsibilities he has been asked to assume are consistent with the District’s contract with SGI.

All Facilities contracts and expenditures have to be approved by the Board, as per Education Code.

Lance has no independent authority to approve expenses since they are forwarded to the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and ultimately to the Board. Senior Business Officer Vernon Hal has exclusive signature authority for all invoices, purchase orders, contract modifications, recommendations to the Board, and expense reimbursements related to SGI.

Again, we have approached this decision keeping in mind what is the most judicious way to protect our limited and vital facilities dollars on behalf of our schools and the taxpayers who fund them.

I am committed to concluding this interim leadership situation as quickly as possible and bringing in the best, brightest, and diverse talent to lead our department into the future as part of our transformation of OUSD.

City Government

Opinion: We Can Protect Public Employee Pensions and the Environment

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

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Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)
Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)

By Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, Special to California Black Media Partners  

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

I trust CalSTRS and CalPERS to make sound investment decisions that prioritize stable, dignified retirement benefits for California teachers and public employees. I also believe that the climate crisis is a real, existential threat to our state, nation and world. California can and must act to reverse this crisis and preserve our fragile environment for generations to come. That is why California has led our nation by phasing out the sale of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035 and becoming carbon net-zero by 2045.

As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, I am committed to protecting the retirement funds of teachers and other public employees. My record is clear. I also represent a coastal district, home to some of California’s most famous beaches along with majority Black and Brown communities that are working to achieve the environmental justice that they and all communities deserve. My record is clear here too: I have, and will continue, to be a champion for protecting the environment.

Last year, SB 252, by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), came before my committee, which would require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from its fossil fuel investments by 2031. At the time, I expressed concern that teachers and other public employees were largely absent from the conversation – after all, it is their money – and asked that the Author and the bill’s supporters work with public sector labor unions to take a position on this legislation.

A year later, although a few public sector labor unions expressed their support for SB 252, many others did not. In fact, a number of police, fire, and other public employee unions oppose the bill. As a compromise, I offered the Author amendments that would align CalPERS and CalSTRS divestment from fossil fuels with California’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. It was a real path to divestment that still allowed CalPERS and CalSTRS to take early divestment action if they decided to do so. The Author declined to accept the amendments, which was followed by her decision to cancel the bill being heard in my committee. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity to protect public employee pensions and show global leadership by divesting from fossil fuel companies once and for all.

To be clear, if CalPERS and CalSTRS wanted to divest from fossil fuel companies they could – today. Together, CalPERS and CalSTRS have committed over $100 billion in investments to sustainable energy and using the power of their investment portfolios to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. More can and must be done to not just green our economy, but green our public pension systems.

I encourage the author and the supporters of SB 252 to reintroduce the measure next legislative session with my proposed amendments and work closely with our public sector labor partners to find greater consensus with the environmental community on this issue. We do not have to choose between protecting public employee pensions and protecting the environment – we can do both. But we cannot risk the solvency of current and future public employee retirement benefits without consensus from our public workers.

It is their money after all.

About the Author 

Assemblymember Tina McKinnor serves as Chair of the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee and represents the cities and communities of El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lenox, Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Venice, West Athens, Westchester and Westmont in Los Angeles County.

Connect with Assemblymember McKinnor on social media: @AsmTinaMcKinnor

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Bay Area

Pan-Hellenic Council Awards Scholarships to Hundreds of High School Seniors

The San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council hosted its 49th Annual Scholarship Reception in Oakland on Saturday where more than two dozen local fraternities and sororities awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of deserving Bay Area students.

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More than 200 people attended the scholarship reception hosted by the San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council. Photo by Chika Emeka.
More than 200 people attended the scholarship reception hosted by the San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council. Photo by Chika Emeka.

By Tuseda A. Graggs

Special to The Post

The San Francisco-Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council hosted its 49th Annual Scholarship Reception in Oakland on Saturday where more than two dozen local fraternities and sororities awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to hundreds of deserving Bay Area students.

The event, held at Merritt College in the Huey P. Newton-Bobby Seale Student Center, honored the accomplishments of high school seniors from schools throughout the Bay Area. More than 300 people attended the two-hour event.

Students received scholarships from Bay Area chapters of the Black Greek letter organizations – better known as the Divine 9 –which include: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.

Oakland City Councilwoman Treva Reid (District 7) encouraged students to persevere through the challenges that they will inevitably face in college. She discussed her challenges of becoming pregnant at Hampton University, birthing her daughter, and struggling financially yet sticking it out and graduating from college.

Shanga Goman, the City of Oakland’s former Youth Poet Laureate also blessed attendees with a motivational poem providing guidance to his younger self as a college student.

In addition to the tuition scholarships awarded, the Pan Hellenic Council drew numbers to give away six $500 book scholarships and two dozen gift cards for students.

For more information about the National Pan Hellenic Council – San Francisco Bay Area and about the Bay Area’s Black Greek Letter Organizations, please visit https://www.sfbaynphc.com/.

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California Black Media

California’s U.S. Senators Padilla and Butler Support Bill That Would Double Pell Grants

California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced last week that they are backing White House efforts to expand Pell Grant awards for working students and families. The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 is bicameral legislation that aims to make college more affordable for low-income students. The initiative will double the Pell Grant to students and undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education. The California senators are among several U.S. senators who have thrown their support behind the legislation.

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California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler. File photos.
California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler. File photos.

By California Black Media

California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced last week that they are backing White House efforts to expand Pell Grant awards for working students and families.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 is bicameral legislation that aims to make college more affordable for low-income students. The initiative will double the Pell Grant to students and undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education. The California senators are among several U.S. senators who have thrown their support behind the legislation.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is the sponsor of the bill.

Butler, a former recipient of a Pell Grant, highlighted that the program helped her further her studies and afford a college education.

“As a proud recipient of the Pell Grant, I know the transformative power of the program in turning the dream of higher education into a reality for students in California and across the nation,” said Butler.

“We must expand the Pell Grant Program to put higher education in reach so that every student has the opportunity to succeed,” she said.

With this new initiative, the program will index maximum awards for inflation. If passed, the measure will make Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls. The act would also restore eligibility for the program up to 18 semesters for students.

Padilla, a first-generation college graduate, acknowledged that the Pell Grant supported his goal to attend college and overcome financial challenges.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education, no matter the size of their parent’s paycheck,” said Padilla.

“As a proud, first-generation college graduate, I know the challenges students face in accessing an affordable education, especially as the cost of education continues to climb,” he said.

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