Amid accolades and thanks to departing members of the Culver City Unified School District Board of Education, members of the public expressed concerns over the four capital improvement projects for Culver City Middle and High Schools during the regular meeting of the Board on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The board also voted to approve the projects with their tentative budget.
Board President Scott Zeidman and member Steve Gourley received repeated thanks and accolades for their four years of service on the board. Gourley is retiring and Zeidman lost his bid for re-election earlier this month in a close race.
"I appreciate you, Steve [Gourley], speaking from your heart," said Culver City Councilman Jeff Cooper, who said he was speaking as a citizen. As for Zeidman, Cooper said, "I really feel that's a given: it can never be understated the hard work you do."
Nonetheless, members of the public came forward to express multiple concerns regarding several aspects of the four capital projects planned for the district, which include improvements to the athletic fields at the high school, and the Robert Frost Auditorium, installing elevators, and the installation of solar panels.
During his regular report, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Ali Dellawalla said that the application for the solar installation rebate had been sent.
The first issue of concern was the hiring, last summer, of an architect to begin work on the athletic field improvements that will include installation of artificial turf on the playing fields and upgrades to the bleachers and snack stand.
Because the firm had a long-standing relationship with the district, it was deemed unnecessary to solicit a Request for Qualifications, among other procedures, before the hiring.
"Whenever you do something that is not completely transparent, you end up with problems," said Board member Karlo Silbiger about the hiring.
Attorney Samuel Santana—of the firm Dannis Woliver Kelley—said that the procedure the district was legal, while Gourley expressed concern that undoing the contract might result in litigation.
The board went on to hear public comment on the official approval of four capital projects, with many people urging approval of the projects for the sake of repairing the athletic fields—which have been widely described as unsafe—and just as many people saying that there weren't sufficient details regarding the budget to approve it.
"This is a blank check," said resident Scott McVarish, about the one-page document outlining the four projects and the basic budget for them.
Silbiger also expressed concern about the lack of a line-item budget for the four projects.
"There's no way for me to know what I support," he said, explaining that without a specific budget outlining each of the different parts of the overall project, it would be hard to make decisions about specific parts.
Nonetheless, Silbiger voted with the rest of the board to approve not only the projects, but the general budget, with an special amendment to allow for extra funds for the solar panel project, should a potential grant from the Air Quality Management District not materialize.