Contract fat won’t go without a fight

The Sacramento City Council gets a bad rap for being dysfunctional. I’m not sure they’ve got anything on the Sacramento City Unified School District Board of Trustees.

The board had an opportunity last week to tackle the issue of exorbitant consultant contracts, and hopefully ease some of the damage that’s going to be caused by the district’s current budget crisis (see “Contract killing,” SN&R Frontlines, March 31).

But they kind of flubbed it. Mostly the discussion bogged down in a pointless debate about whether the board actually has the authority to dig into contracts, or whether that’s a job best left to the Superintendent Jonathan Raymond.

“If we’re going to set the priorities of where every single dollar in this district goes, then we don’t need a superintendent,” complained board member Donald Terry, who’s been resistant to the idea of opening up consultant contracts to more public scrutiny.

Board president Gustavo Arroyo and fellow trustee Diana Rodriguez have taken the lead in pushing for a review of the contracts. They want to take closer look because of a $21 million budget deficit that threatens to gobble up about 400 teachers’ jobs, sports programs, home-to-school transportation for kids who need it most and a lot of other programs besides.

At the end of the meeting Raymond defended some of those contracts, saying that consultants have helped to transform the district’s underperforming “priority schools.”

“It’s been done with outside resources, with teams of very talented consultants who have come in and done some amazing work. …We do not have all of the answers in the school district. We need help,” Raymond explained.

Raymond brought in the firm Transformation By Design to help with all the, er, transforming, that’s happening at his priority schools. Try Googling the firm and then tell me if you can figure out what they do, or anything else about them. I’ve asked the people in the district’s communication shop, and I’m still not sure exactly how Transformation By Design is actually earning their half a million dollars. I do know that money would help rescind some pink slips.

As for not having “all the answers” in the school district, why not? Raymond has dozens of high-paid chiefs, directors and assistant superintendents working for him. They’re all making six figures and have advanced degrees and, presumably, years of experience. If they can’t get the job done without the help of a lot of outside consultants, maybe they shouldn’t be on the payroll, either.

Compiled from Snog.