Thursday, July 17, 2008

Circular Logic

The Facility Advisory Board (FAB) of the Trenton Board of Education (BOE) met Wednesday night to discuss and clarify the recent round of funding promised from the School Development Authority (SDA).

The Save Trenton High Coalition posted an update on the meeting that addressed the status of the Early Childhood Center, MLK/Jefferson, Roebling and Trenton Central High School:

Mr. Dwayne Mosley of the FAB gave the presentation and Mr. Alexander Brown of the Board of Education (BOE) facilitated the meeting. Representatives from the School Development Authority’s (SDA) and the State Department of Education (DOE) were not present. Approximately 15 members of the public and two BOE members were in attendance.

A significant amount of time was devoted to discussing and deciphering the SDA’s decision-making “process” as presented by the FAB and BOE, specifically as it relates to Trenton High and Roebling. Apparently, it borrows heavily from the chicken and the egg theory. It goes something like this:
1. The SDA has told the BOE they must make a decision soon on either renovating or replacing Trenton High and Roebling.
2. The SDA has refused to provide the BOE with a cost analysis or feasibility study on renovation and replacement in order to make an informed decision.
3. The only way to get the SDA to provide any information to the BOE in order to determine the best alternative for the students (and this is where we were told to suspend our disbelief) is for the BOE to vote on a resolution to “abandon” Trenton High and Roebling and build brand new schools.

That is precisely what the BOE is going to do. On Monday, July 28 the BOE is going to vote on a yet to be written resolution to “abandon” the landmark Trenton High and build a new school that serves only 1300-1500 students, all in the name of studying its renovation.
The FAB and the BOE attempted to pacify the public by explaining that this is how the SDA’s “process” works. Possibly by September the SDA will complete its analysis, and another FAB meeting will presumably be held to the present to the public the results of renovation versus new construction.

Extremely confusing, yes. But if this is truly the “process,” it is apparent that the SDA is still incapable of managing school construction projects. By forcing the BOE to scrap the existing renovation plans and start from scratch there is a very real risk that the limited amount of funding will disappear.

The meeting reportedly concluded when Mr. Brown abruptly adjourned it while one member of the public tried to ask a question.

So, if we understand this as presented, only if the Trenton Board of Education votes to abandon the idea of renovating the existing Trenton High School and build a new facility that serves fewer students will the School Development Authority provide cost estimates for new construction versus renovation.

One could conclude that the SDA would take their cue and make the financial case for not renovating the existing Trenton Central High School because the Board has to vote that way in order to get a cost estimate.

This is not just wrong, it is absurd.

If the money is designated for the city of Trenton, shouldn’t the responsible body be able to determine how it is to be spent? And shouldn’t the funding agency be mandated to provide the information needed to determine how it should be spent…
…prior to the Board of Ed making that determination?!?!?!

Not one to give our BOE a pass, but should the state really hold us hostage because it failed to rein in the waste and corruption of the SDA’s predecessor, the School Construction Corporation?

The BOE will vote on this new resolution on Monday, July 28.

Let’s hope the powers that be shake some sense into the SDA before then. Let’s get realistic and comprehensive cost comparisons for renovation vs. new construction and give the Trenton BOE the opportunity to make an informed decision.

It’s the very least that should be done for the citizens of New Jersey who are footing the bill for whatever is done here.


Cal said...

I've got some swamp land in ... The SDA, Mosely and Brown are asking the TBOE to rescind approval, because it is the only way to get the SDA off the hook for the renovation of the high school and now, apparently, the construction of the Roebling School (which was a demonstration project with guaranteed funding). The only factor influencing school design, at this point, should be population projections. Doesn't the TBOE have counsel?

Old Mill Hill said...


As for the BOE's legal counsel...
the former attorney for the board (a loyal Palmer supporter, go figure) just got appointed to the bench. Last I knew, the BOE was interviewing for new counsel.

Which politically connected esquire will get the job now?