Monday, August 23, 2010

Heads Would Roll!!!!

Every morning when I get up I browse the news. This morning I found an article about a new California school with a price tag of $578 million dollars—headlined as the costliest in the nation. I read the story and my blood boiled.

We all elect our politicians—school board members—in hopes they will represent us not only with respect to our views on any given subject matter, but with it in mind that they will also think about the bottom line too—our wallets. Somebody in California dropped the damn ball. And if it were my state? Heads would roll!

Actually, I don’t think such a project would ever have gone on the books in my state. No, I’m not California-bashing. I just know we have some truly rabid watchdogs in our state that do nothing but eyeball our public school system to the point of overkill sometimes.

The location of the school itself is suspect to me. It seems they remodeled and added to the old Ambassador Hotel where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, and the new K-12 school has the following amenities:

• fine art murals
• marble memorials depicting RFK
• a manicured public park—ten acres
• state-of-the-art swimming pool
• preservation of pieces of the original hotel
• talking benches (history involving RFK)
• a dance studio with cushioned maple floors
• a modern kitchen with a restaurant quality pizza oven
• a stainless steel, postmodernistic tower encircled by a rollercoaster-like swirl

First off, it sounds more like a museum to me than a school. And a museum should be funded privately not publicly. Or with a combination of grant money and taxpayer dollars. But the fancy architecture, fine art, and lavish upgrades aren’t the only things that added to the price tag of this school. It seems the historical preservationists involved in all of this—and how all of this ended up being paid for within a school budget is beyond me—but they were involved in a lawsuit with Donald Trump who wanted to build the tallest building in the world there. Donald should have won. Because to me it sounds like this building is OVERKILL MUCH. And I bet Donald could have built the world’s tallest building a lot cheaper too. Cost of that litigation? $9 million.

Oh, there were also a lot of legal costs involved in some sort of litigation involving methane. HUH? I don’t know. The article didn’t give much information on that one at all. But the real kicker for me was the whopping $15 million bucks spent to preserve things like a wall from the old Coconut Grove lounge.

What kills me in all of this is that these kids attending this school don’t even know who RFK is. They don’t remember the old Ambassador Hotel or know a damn thing about the Coconut Grove Lounge. And K-12? Most of their parents won’t remember anything or much at all about any of it either. They are too young. What meaning will any of this have for them?

The idea behind the school—and there is another one almost as costly in Cali too and one in New Jersey and one in Massachusetts as well according to the article—is that you get kids out of a lackluster environment and they learn better. HUH? Critics are saying that the school will be run by the same people who have given California a fifty percent dropout rate.

This project was started over twenty years ago it seems. So we can’t slap them for doing this during hard economic times. But should they have done this at all? Will having your child in a fancier school influence his/her learning? And the biggest question of all. In a country where our teachers are already underpaid, shouldn’t all of that money have gone to teacher pay raises? Or shouldn’t it have gone to upgrading existing schools?

What’s everyone’s take on this? Am I wrong to be scratching my head and wondering WTF this morning?

On another note, don't forget to check out Natalie Dae's post here on Three Wicked Writers Plus Two on Friday. She's going to announce a really cool competition. You could win a prize that might just come in pretty handy. So make sure you stop by on Friday to see what Natalie has in store for everyone.

Thanks for reading!


Hales said...

OMG is this the same school that boasts to be the most expensive public school in the nation. I saw it on yahoo.

I can't imagine tax money being spent that way there are other needs. I found in my hometown that funding for the school is done by district not by town. In the college town we had 18 Elementaries, 4 Jr Highs, and now 2 Highschools. Went to a town hall meeting and found that certain schools recieved funding for new books,art,math,science programs but it wasn't split equally for all schools, and they were all public schools.

We just consolidated where we are, closed schools for lack of funding, in the suburbs, not in the city where it's worse. I can't comprehende that kind of waste of resources.

Serenity King said...

I can't get my mind around the stupidity of it all. Schools around the board are closing and this district has the audacity to spend that kind of money on a school in a state with that kind of dropout rate. Simply ridiculous!

I can't see the benefits...are they offering more jobs? What?

Natalie Dae said...

Oh. My. God.

Regina Carlysle said...

Yeah, it does sound more like a museum than a school. I have nothing against our kids being in a nice/clean learning environment but in this time of economic upheaval it's just too much! I'm in Texas and in our community it always seems to me there is always something 'new and improved' going up at Taxpayers expense. The problem with that is we have some many big, beautiful but ABANDONED buildings. Why not utilize those? Pick them up for a decent price and renovate to suit the need?

And isn't Cali in lots of financial trouble....just like the rest of us? This makes no sense.

Starfox Howl said...

There are schools that are closing because of funding cutbacks, schools that can't open due to basic safety features like FIRE ALARM systems that are inoperable since maintenance has been deferred for so long. Schools that have no AC for the summer (I was in Junior High school before we had AC, and that was in the TRAILERS) and no heat for the winter and a school district has spent the equivalent of a Navy fighter jet on a school? A SINGLE SCHOOL?

Now I know politicians are idiots.

anny cook said...

Ahhhhh, California! Land of the insane.

C. Zampa said...

I agree, too, that this is such an extravagence for a school.

But what aches me the most is, and I am being SO selfish here, this:

As an avid lover of Hollywood history, and a writer who has had so many beloved scenes in my stories take place within the Ambassador, the Cocoanut Grove; as a reader who loves pourig over stories of the stars from the Golden Age of the city who frequented and stil haunt those grounds---well, if they were going to spend so much money, they could have easily fit such an project into funds that would have been covered by historic restoration.

This site, a monument to the history it represents, could have and should have been preserved as a national historic site. Not a school which will never be appreciated by its inhabitants.

Told you my reasons were selfish. But there ARE funds that could surely been used, much cheaper, too, to restore that wonderful, mystical piece of history. For those who WOULD appreciate its worth and its powerful spot in an era of the film world.

Anonymous said...

That would so not fly here. It does sound more like a museum than a school.

Laura G. said...

Hey Tess-
Great blog! Very timely, too. And also VERY true. There are a few good politicians out there, but they are few and far between. I would think it would be a tough row to hoe, too...because that person has to 'please' as many people as possible AND keep as close to their morals as possible too...if they even have any. As far as the school? the lot of 'em.

Brenda Hyde said...

I can't imagine this at all. We live in a rural community, and I was just horrified to find out our elementary principals make over 100,000 a year. We have a high school, a middle school, and 4 elementary schools. As far as the school themselves, they are not fancy, and we've had so many budget cuts it's not funny. I've never understood the division of money when it comes to our schools. Shouldn't it be focused on our kids getting the best education?

Madison Scott said...

We can't even afford to keep our teachers half the time. How can we afford this school?

Shiela Stewat said...

This is absolutely idiotic! I can't believe they are allowed to do this. I just don't get people some times.

Abigail-Madison Chase said...

I really think that having your child in a fancier school matters in some states. I live in a state that is still under consent decrees from the Dept of Justice so the school you attend and how great it is depends on your district. Parents buy their homes in districts with schools like this. No we don’t have one with this price tag but we do have one that is almost as fancy and caters to students almost in the same way. Unlike many in the district they have a private ballet teacher; the kids eat filet mignon for lunch which is prepared by a local chef who donates his services. This is a Magnet School and like the school in the paper they get more money than the average schools for thier kids. My parents lived in one of the premier school districts and I can attest to the fact that I was exposed to things that I never would have been if I had not attended my high school. My mom taught at a school that could never compare to mine. People always wanted to use our address to send their kids to my elementary and high school. I have benefited from attending a nicer than average school and although I wish the price tag was lower the value of school will be felt by the students.

Tess MacKall said...

One in the same, Hales. I'm having a really hard time with this too. Not my school, not my district, not my state. But the waste just boggles the mind.

The lack of equality in how money is spent in the systems nationwide is appalling to say the least. We have the same issues here in my own system that you speak of, Hales.

Tess MacKall said...

Hi Serenity,

I don't get it either. Even though it was clear that this project was started twenty years ago, it makes no sense. Not now, not then. I see it as incredibly wasteful. More teachers, smaller classroom sizes would have been a much better way to go. Revamping existing schools, improving their structure.

Tess MacKall said...

Yep,'s pretty bad.

Tess MacKall said...

Makes absolutely no sense, Regina. You're right. There are so many abandoned buildings that could be put to good use and yet our world keeps putting up new and improved monuments. Monuments to what? The Almight Bucks Spent?

Tess MacKall said...

Yep, Starfox. I have to agree. The cost was ridiculous. Upgrades to existing schools, more teachers, better pay for teachers. There are so many things that supersede the a fancy building to glorify those who brought it about.

Tess MacKall said...

Hiya Anny,

Cali does have its share of WTFs doesn't it? lol

Tess MacKall said...

CZ, I do agree with you that the site SHOULD have been preserved. The Ambassador speaks to a bygone era. The RFK history alone begs to be told. And in the right hands--private hands or in the hands of a government/private group in which costs could have been held down and not so many extravagances added, such a project could have been a major coup to the area in general. The history of Bobby Kennedy needs to be told in general.

The Bobby Kennedy that I remember, would not like this at all. He'd be the first to start those heads a rollin'.

Tess MacKall said...

You are so right, Nanny. I can't help but wonder where was the voting public when all of this was planned. Where are all the watchdog groups in sunny Cali?

Tess MacKall said...

Yep, Laura, fire the lot of them. Off with their heads.

I read that article again and the lawsuit with the methane issues cost 33 million bucks. WOW.

Someone really had their head in the sand with this one.

Tess MacKall said...

Oh and me both! We've got principals making triple and quadruple what the average teacher makes. Sure, they have the responsibility of making sure that everything runs smoothly. I don't think a principal's job is easy at all. But I do think they make way too much in comparison with what we pay our teachers.

I heard the argument within our own system that we need to pay them so much in order to attract top-notch administrators. Well, dayum...that's all well and good...but let's attract some top-notch teachers too! And stop giving my child raggedy out-dated books!

Ana Lee Kennedy said...

Hi Tess. Well, you've known about my school woes and all the battles I've had with the old school my kids attended and the battles I've had with the State of Ohio Board of Education. One thing that will get me on a roll faster than anything is government control and the stupidity and waste in the school system.

Tess MacKall said...

You're so right, Madison. Teachers leave the system in droves. Too much headache and not enough money to be worth it. Teachers constantly move on to better pay and better working conditions.

To keep good teachers we need more money to entice them.

Tess MacKall said...

I'm with you, Shiela. Idiotic. Not a better word for it either.

In our school system kids can't even whisper the word beer. Can't wear any T shirts that might have a beer on it or something like that. And I have no problem with it. But in this school in Cali, there is going to be a wall glorifying a lounge.

Sure it's history...but history that belongs in a museum setting, not a school. And no, I'm not a prude. But are these kids really going to appreciate a bygone era? Will this school give them a feel for Bobby Kennedy and his role in American politics?

Tess MacKall said...

Not sure I can agree with you Abigail. I can't see one school giving their children all kinds of perks and other schools going without. Where is the equality in the education there?

It may have been nice for you and those who were fortunate enough to attend that school, but what about those he couldn't attend that school?

Everyone should have a right to an equal education. And I honestly don't believe that serving students filet mignon has anything to do with education. Nice of the chef to volunteer his services, but who pays for the meat? Taxpayers or is the charge absorbed by parents who can afford a twelve dollar lunch---and filet mignon with all the trimmings would probably run closer to fifteen even at cost.

Exposing students to things they've never seen or experienced before is absolutely applauded by me. As president of our PTA at three different schools in our district, I can attest to the fact that one of the things I pushed for was to do just that--give students something more than the usual.

So we worked with parents and teachers to upgrade field trips to more exciting venues. Worked hard with our state arts council to provide programs at our schools that showcased the bigger world--a world many students had never seen.

I understand how these lavish schools are seen by some. Especially if you're one of the lucky ones who gets to attend. But at what cost to the rest of the system--the students left out?

Sorry to have to disagree---guess I'm just one of those bleeding heart liberals. lol

Thanks for posting, Abigail.

Tess MacKall said...

Hiya, Faith...Yep, I know of your woes. I pray for people to get good sense. lol

There is too much red tape, too many rules that sometimes just bring learning to a grinding halt. Something YOU ran into.

The idea that all that money went for a building--a building so students could have a pretty place to look at--when in reality it was more about pointing to something by those that did it and saying: Hey, look at what we did...well, it just makes me crazy.

Anonymous said...

I'm IN California and unfortunately...doesn't even raise my eyebrows that this crap goes on. It's just burning money, pure stupidity, and they are teaching our kids. Years ago I used to be a part of the PTA at one of my children's schools. We did a fundraiser... got $15,000 together to buy computers for the classrooms... and the school informed us that we HAD to buy them from their supplier ( ready for it???) Each computer cost $3,500 ( basic computer ). I was outraged. Then I found out they'd gone into our funds and paid $1,600for a 'teacher lunch' for 20 teachers without our consent. Where the hell did they eat??? I made WAVES... HUGE ONES... and they had to refund the money. Then I took them on about how we raised the money, WE got to spend it for the school, and we ended up getting 15 fully loaded computers, with monitors, printers, and extras. If we'd had to spend it according to the school... We'd have been lucky to buy 4 computers. Crappy ones. They LOVE to waste money. It's like breathing to them. Sad, stupid, and it needs changed.


Natalie Dae said...

Anonymous THAT teacher lunch is disgusting. I think of what that money could have bought to improve the kids' education, and it makes me want to cry at the waste of opportunity those children missed.

Tess MacKall said...


That school is very lucky you didn't call in PTA National. In the first place, no way is a school employee ever allowed to be able to sign a check for PTA funds. It's against the by-laws. But I feel your pain.

When I first became an officer in PTA, I was dealing with a group that had never really paid no attention to PTA rules and regulations. The principal of the school simply said jump and they said how high.

In the past they had purchased a truck for the school so the custodian had a way back and forth to school. Uhhhh...WTF does that have to do with educating our children? I'm all for showing appreciation to school employees, but in the way of a truck? Hell no.

It all started with me when the treasurer of our little group announced she was heading to the builder's supply the next day to open up a charge acct for the principal. There is no volcano on Earth that ever had a bigger eruption than the one from me that day.

And a $1600 lunch. Puhleeeeeze. Fillet Mignon?

I did have an incident at another school with a principal who came to us wanting a special computer program. He gave us the price tag as 3K. We thought it was a good program--one that allowed teachers to input student grades on a weekly basis and parents--with a password--could see their kids' progress whenever they liked. Good tool for keeping up with the kids and not having to go into school or call the teacher to do it.

Welllll...a month later the price tag was 7K...we took his new price tag and went with it, thinking he'd just made a mistake.

When we finally had to pay for it, it was 10K. And six months later, it still was not installed. One of our members went to a luncheon a couple of months later in which the guy who was head of tech was there and she asked him about it. He informed her that the program would not be installed as it had not been approved by him. Uh huh.

So we went to war. Funny thing is, it worked all the next year, but as soon as the two trouble makers--moi and the other lady---had children leave the school? It never worked again.

We had computers donated to a school once--twelve. All we had to do was go and pick them up in another state which required us renting a big truck to haul them back. Cost to us? $350. Brought them back and the same system refused to allow us to use them because they had not been approved by them--not the kind of system they buy. Crap...the Internet is the Internet. Brand or no brand, we all get there the same damn way.

Stupid people run these school systems it would seem. Little people with small minds and big egos. If you don't ask them permission, let them spend the money, then they don't want it.

I gave up and quit a few years back. And you know what? I have a much harder time with my youngest child in school now. As long as I was a PTA member, always at school volunteering my time, my kids were never mistreated (and this subject would be another blog as to some of the things my youngest has been through since I'm not there to keep a check daily), but since I'm not there---you can tell the difference.

Anne Rainey said...

OMG! Insane!!

Great blog! :)

Tess MacKall said...

Yes, Anne, I do believe "insane" is an appropriate word for this mess. Somebody has got to be fired over this. Just have to be.

Regina Carlysle said...

One of the big wheels over this renovation was on the news this morning. Trying to justify it. Can you believe that? He blamed Donald Trump for most of the expense since he sued over wanting this property. I don't buy it. That place was a freakin' showplace. Stained glass windows? WOW.

Tess MacKall said...

The Trump suit was only $9 million. That methane suit was $33 million. And it was $15 million to preserve that Coconut Grove Lounge wall and a few other things.

No way can he blame this on Trump. Like I said in the blog--Trump should have won. He's have brought the building in a lot cheaper. He's no fool---well, maybe when it comes to women and his hair. LOL