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Exclusive Interview with Inglewood USD Measure K Oversight Committee Chair

IUSDWhere do I begin?  The Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) has been in existence since 1954.  Some of the schools within the district still aesthetically appear to look as they did when first built.  Sure some of the schools have had a coat or two of paint applied to the exterior you can see from the street, but if you delve further into the campus you will find that buildings have visible cracks, the multi-layers of paint are peeling off, yellow grass, disgusting bathrooms, etc. 

In 1998 Inglewood residents supported a bond called “Measure K” which would increase property taxes to cover $131 million dollars towards the upgrades of the school districts school properties.  Measure K receiving strong support from Tomasina Reed, Eveline Ross and Johnny Young.  Were you aware that in addition to the $131 million IUSD also received matching funds of $100 million from the state?  Sounds like more than enough for 17 schools?

Measure K funds were to address building issues along with increasing technology in the classrooms.  To date, only a few schools received Measure K funds and Inglewood residents would pass another bond measure called “Measure GG” which called for an additional $90 million to get to the schools that were left.  Just as the residents passed with an overwhelming amount of support, the month prior, the district was placed under the control of the state when SB533 was implemented due to IUSD requesting an emergency loan totaling $55 million dollars.

Many in the community are outraged that the board approved such grandiose expenditures to build one school in particular, LaTijera, that would become the straw that broke the IUSD’s back.  The board gambled huge and lost.  Aware that the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee had a duty to oversee the funds, I had many questions for those serving on the committee, mainly, why were all of the change orders approved by the committee and sent to the board for approval, knowing the district was in a state of decline with the decreasing enrollment numbers?

Jack Wolffberg is a long-time Inglewood resident and attended many IUSD schools.  Once the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee began to accept applications in 1999, he applied and was placed on the committee.  At the time the board was all female with Gloria Gray, Dr. Loystene Irvin, Mrs. Cresia Green-Davis, Eveline Ross and Alice Grigsby serving the residents.

Editors note: Inglewood USD board agendas are only available from 2002 forward to verify actual members at time of Jack’s appointment to the board.  Board agenda from January 16, 2002, is where we see the introduction of selling property located at 107th and Yukon Ave. (site of the former Community Garden).

Wolffberg is the longest-serving member of the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee having been on the board since its inception in 1999.  Having already done my homework on the IUSD policy governing the Meaure K Bond Oversight Committee, I had many questions to ask regarding the committees recommendations which the IUSD board always approved.

Firstly, why are there so many vacancies on the board Mr. Wolffberg?

It is too hard to get 23 members as the policy required.  The committee only operated at capacity during the first three (3) years.  Since then it was too hard to recruit.  We would go to block clubs, churches and town hall meetings and no one was interested.

You have been the longest-serving member, where you appointed to the board?

No, I filled out an application and was selected by the all women board.

Who did the board appoint?

I can’t remember, there have been so many people in/out it is hard to keep track.

If the policy is for the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee to have a total of twenty-three (23) members, why have there been only five (5) members during the last six years?

Arnold Butler and Johnny Young said it would be easier to get things done with fewer members on the board.  Butler and Young said that since we (committee) don’t have approved bylaws then we don’t exist in the first place so to bring the number to five was their idea and it was implemented.

How does the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee not have approved bylaws?

That was one of the many things we as committee members complained about and every time the committee submitted bylaws to the board, they would never approve them.  The community knows the committee is “supposed” to exist, the public does not know that the board never approved us to operate.

So why does the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee continue to meet and make recommendations if you aren’t recognized to do so?

Good question, you would have to ask Butler and Young about that.  Things changed once they took over.  They ran very little past us and would always say that didn’t have to because without approved bylaws, we don’t exist.  We weren’t on any interview panels like we were prior to them coming on.  We also had only 2 audits completed during the entire fifteen year history of the Measure K bond funds being disbursed.

Is that why you and Trina Williams called for an audit of the Measure K Bond funds?

No, we called for an audit of the Inglewood USD funds.  Measure K funds and school funds are two different things.  We called for the audit of the districts books.

In 2005 LaTijera was demolished and the building was completed in 2012 in time for the 2012-13 school year.  Why was Turner-Bakewell construction brought on as Project Manager midway through the construction of LaTijera?

in 2010 Arnold Butler recommended him and in the past, Measure K Bond Oversight Committee members would sit on the interview panel like we did when IUSD brought on Robert Guillen.  When they had the interview panel for Turner-Bakewell, Measure K committee members were not invited to attend.  Butler said we were volunteers and referred back to us not having approved bylaws so we were shut out.  This is another thing  we continued to complain about but no one listened or did anything.  Ironically, the LA Sentinel supported a “NO” vote on Measure K.

The project manager didn’t build so to speak.  We already had someone to build the school, Butler brought Turner-Bakewell on to manage the project.

So when the change orders kept coming in elevating the cost of the school, that didn’t raise a red flag to the committee members?

Yes it did but we weren’t in on the panel to interview Turner-Bakewell nor did we know about all of the change orders submitted.  We would know about some change orders, not all of them.

How many Measure K Bond Oversight Committee members usually attend the scheduled committee meetings?

On average it is only Lisa Dawson, James Little and myself (Jack Wolffberg).

Why did the three of you continue to approve all of the change orders submitted by Turner-Bakewell knowing the district was steps from takeover and enrollment was declining?

As I told you, Arnold Butler and Johnny Young were never in support of the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee so a lot of times meetings took place that none of the members attended.  We would constantly bring these issues up to them but they wouldn’t listen.

So are you saying that the board would put recommendations from the Measure K Oversight Committee on Inglewood USD board agendas for approval that were never seen by the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee?

You are correct.  We were always told by Butler and Young that without bylaws we don’t exist and they were allowed to make the recommendations since we were just “independent volunteers”.

As members of the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee you had a duty to tell the residents of the scam that was going on which led the public to believe we had a committee acting in good faith on behalf of the IUSD employees, students and community members who trusted that the money would be spent and allocated for all of the schools to enjoy.  Why didn’t you, Lisa Dawson, Wanda Brown, Vernail Skaggs, Mary Bueno or James Little report to the LA County District Attorneys office that the IUSD board refused to approve your bylaws, would hold secret meetings approving project managers/change orders as stipulated in the policy adopted by IUSD in 1998 and that money was being allocated without the Measure K Bond Oversight Committees knowledge and/or approval?

We did complain.  We went to District Attorney Steve Cooley and he did nothing.  We went public after Trina Williams embezzlement charges were dropped and nothing.  We complain at all of the IUSD board meetings and Ms. Sambrano goes to the City of Inglewood city council meetings and nothing is ever done.

Editors note: Wanda Brown and Mary Bueno have served off/on of the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee dating back to 2001.

What happened to the woman who initially took the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee meting minutes Ms. Davidson?

The public complained that Cindi Collechi was being paid out of Measure K bond funds and the board, Butler and Young, had Davidson removed and replaced by Cindi so she would be attached to doing something Measure K related.

Was Ms. Collechi aware that the Measure K Oversight Committee meeting agendas and minutes were to be posted on the Inglewood USD website for public review?

To my understanding that was being done.  Again, Butler and Young were instructing Cindi on what was supposed to go on the site.  The IUSD website is very outdated.  I have requested many times for the meeting minutes and agendas from the years prior to 2008 but have been unsuccessful.

I thank you for your time Jack, you have been very enlightening.

You’re welcome, stay in touch if you need anything else.

Editors note:  is this what to expect from the Measure GG Bond Oversight Committee?  I also wonder what the IUSD Construction Manager has to say about all of this?  Also, please note that the Measure K Bond Oversight Committee sought to approve Turner-Bakewell to provide construction management services for district-wide projects during meetings held on: 5/21/12, 6/11/12 and 6/25/12 except all of the meeting agendas are stamped as “cancelled”.  However, on June 13, 2012, the board approved Turner-Bakewell to perform these services using Measure K money.  Is this an example of a “rogue” board that operated outside of the rules as Mr. Wolffberg implied?  See page 21 of this document showing the board approved on their own without the recommendation/approval of the oversight committee.

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About Melissa

I am a lifelong Inglewood resident living in District 4. I serve on PTA and School Site Council as Vice-President, for the last 8 years with Inglewood Unified School District. I volunteer on the Wellness Committee for ICEF Public Schools. I am an alumni of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science. You can find me on Twitter under @CreoleMommie

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