Discontinue Ten Outside Service Contracts Costing $5 Million, Auditor Tells SBCUSD

The San Bernardino City Unified School District should give serious consideration to canceling ten of the 26 contracts it has with outside entities for the provision of extended learning programs and educational augmentation services, according to a recommendation contained in an audit of those contracts requested by the district’s now departing superintendent.
According to the audit, the district is currently spending $12,824,798.20 on those contracts and would see that outlay reduced by $5,048,201.35, such that the total in contracted-for services would stand at $7,776,596.85.
Different and more reliable vendors would need to be found to provide some of the services, the auditors said.
Shortly after he took on the position of San Bernardino City Unified School District superintendent in June 2021, Harry “Doc” Ervin carried out what he acknowledges was a quick and superficial survey of the contracts the district has for outside services, including ones related to educational purposes and the maintenance of the district’s substantial assets, including its 72 campuses, four learning centers and 15 charter schools.
While Ervin’s initial focus fell to preparing for the opening of the district’s campuses for the 2021-22 school year, as they had been shuttered beginning in March/April of 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and had remained closed throughout the entirety of the 2020/21 school year while students and teachers continued to involve themselves in remote learning, he remained convinced a more in-depth evaluation that included looking at the district’s contracts in terms of effectiveness, financial integrity, the degree of student participation in each, return on investment and the district’s capacity to provide the contracted-for services internally was long overdue.
At the district’s August 17, 2021 school board meeting, while he yet had the confidence of the entire board, Ervin asked for and was given authorization to contract with the Great Gains educational approach advising firm to conduct an audit of the district’s financials and performance with regard to the Creative After-School Programs.
Because he was new to the district, Ervin did not fully understand or appreciate what his predecessor as superintendent, Dale Marsden, had come to comprehend, which was that many of the services upon which he was focused were provided by companies owned by individuals or companies who were personal and political associates of members of the school board.
With that audit under way, Ervin held off on reinitiating some of those contracts with the advent of the 2021-22 school year. By September 2021, three of the district’s board members – Barbara Flores, Danny Tillman and Abigail Medina – were pressuring Ervin on behalf of their supporters to facilitate the continuation of those contracts. When Ervin refused, at the October 5, 2021 board meeting Tillman, Medina and Flores sought to fire Ervin. Ervin, however, had the solid backing of board members Margaret Hill, Mayra Ceballos, Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers and Scott Wyatt, and was able to remain in place. The progress toward completing the audits being performed continued.
On December 19, Margaret Hill died. Whereas up to that time, Ervin had a 4-to-3 board majority backing his action, an instantaneous 3-to-3 deadlock on the board had come to exist, with Dowdy-Rodgers, Wyatt and Ceballos looking to keep Ervin in place and Medina, Flores and Tillman gunning for his removal. The 3-to-3 board impasse meant that the reform moves, including the audit initiated in August 2021, continued, while Flores, Tillman and Medina were militating to find some way to abbreviate it.
On May 3, Ervin, weary of being in an extended touch-and-go situation and having to risk termination to follow through with the reforms to the district he felt were necessary and in the interest of the district’s students, elected to throw in the towel. He was, he said, resigning as superintendent as of July 1.
Despite his scheduled leaving and the seeming victory that handed to Tillman, Flores and Medina, it kept Ervin in place long enough for him to make certain that the Great Gains audits were completed and presented to the district.
Late last month, those audits were completed, together with recommendations about which programs should continue to be funded and which ones should not. The recommendation was that ten of programs – representing contracts worth $5,048,201.35 – should be discontinued. Those were:
– A $400,000 contract with the Akoma Unity Center. “Do not contract,” the recommendation states. “Way too much money for so few students. No demonstrable impact. We also have Rio Vista Elementary next door and Arroyo Valley a block away where similar programming could occur.”
-A $25,000 contract with the Asian American Resource Center. The recommendation said it was a “homework center” which “very few students attend.”
-A $1,477,891.20 contract with the Center for Youth and Community Development. “They lost [the] Boys and Girls [Club] charter and have had financial issues where employees’ checks bounced. Recently, one principal demanded we no longer use them.”
-A $25,000 contract with First Congregational Church, which the recommendation said is a “homework center” which “very few students attend.”
-A $25,000 contract with Lutheran Social Services, which the recommendation said is a “homework center” which “very few students attend.”
-A $25,000 contract with St. John’s Community Success, which the recommendation said is a “homework center” which “very few students attend.”
-A $92,904.55 contract with Akoma Unity Center at Del Vallejo Middle School. “Why contract with them at Del Vallejo when not really proven at their center,” the recommendation states.
-A $25,000 contract with the Center for Youth and Community Development Homework center which the recommendation said, “very few students attend.”
-A $452,406.50 contract with the Youth Action Project. “They have a long history of not listening to us about programming, paying their people properly, mixing Americorps stipends and not being able to explain very well. We took one school away from them and that school is doing much better,” according to the recommendation, which said the provision of the services provided by the Youth Action Project “should move to Project Life Impact.”
– A $2,5000,000 contract with Garner Holt Education through Imagination. The recommendation stated, “The only reason” the district was using Garner Holt “as a contractor was so that schools could purchase materials without going to bid,” and that the company is “almost a sole source, but now other companies such as Pitsco have similar offerings.” The recommendation characterized the company’s “trainings” as “too expensive.” The district could provide the same services and goods on its own more economically, according to the recommendation. “This is really a purchase for materials,” the recommendation states.
According to the audit, canceling the $452,406.50 contract with the Youth Action Project, canceling the $1,477,891.20 contract with the Center for Youth and Community Development and canceling the $92,904.55 contract with Akoma Unity Center at Del Vallejo Middle School would ultimately represent no savings for the district, since the discontinued services would need to be made up by another provider.
The audit recommended that the district continue the contracts of 14 vendors worth $7,776,596.85.
Those included:
-A $25,000 contract with Big Brothers and Sisters, since, the auditing team said, “They are self-sufficient and proactive about recruiting and with counselors and administration.”
-A $54,000 contract with CHORDS Youth Enrichment, given that, the auditors said, the service is “low cost and serves a music production element to the high schools.
-A $90,000 contract with Project Fighting Chance, because, the auditors said, of the way it brings “resources to the district and currently” features “5 nationally ranked boxers. Program is unique” and includes chess, guitar and soon-to-come piano lessons, the recommendation noted.
– A $130,000 contract with Sixty-One Golf, which, the auditing team said “works with 11 middle schools using training equipment” that has been donated to the district.
-A $291,078.50 contract with Ecclesia Christian Fellowship, which is involved at two schools and, according to the auditors, has “been human resource responsible.”
-A $797,234.10 contract with Project Life Impact, which auditors said “took over one of our high schools from Youth Action Project and is on its way to be[ing] a model site.”
– A $13,000 contract with the Regents of the University of California at Davis, that the auditors said provides for a “new project to introduce animal husbandry to Muscoy and Vermont.” The program is “tied to 4H,” the auditors said, stating the district’s “Creative After-School Programs should involve themselves with 4H.”
– A $5,808,843.49 contract with YMCA of the East Valley, what the auditors called “our largest provider and most professional and financially viable,” which is active in the Redlands Unified School District, as well.
– A $50,000 contract with Artists in Residence, which the auditing team said, “will have working artists teach in our high school program.”
A $132,990.85 contract with Athletes for Life, which is run by ex-NFL player Greg Bell. “Needs cultivating,” the auditors stated. “New provider, but [has] experience with other school districts.”
-A $50,000 contract with Transforming Arts & Minds LLC/Film Society. The programming, in real time at Indian Springs High School will “happen at other high schools through virtual [hook-up],” the auditors noted, and will offer “internships and industry instructors.”
– Another $300,000 contract with Transforming Arts & Minds LLC/Broadway Now! “We have a lot of input and collaboration with Tony Plana,” the Cuban American actor, the auditing team said.
In addition, the audit recommended that the district maintain contracts in the amounts of $7,150, $9,000, $6.500 and $10,800 with Charles B. Allen, Inland Empire Soccer, Inland Volleyball Officials and Keith B. Weeks Enterprises, respectively, for sports referees.

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