Better late than never

Superintendent Nancy Sebring and a “facilities advisory committee” are recommending that the Des Moines school district save $2 million a year after 2011 by not extending a contract with Taylor Ohde Kitchell to manage construction projects for the district:

Currently, Taylor Ohde Kitchell has a $19.3 million contract to oversee construction projects through June 30, 2011.

“We have fewer dollars to spend, and we want as much of those to go into schools and impacting students and adults at those schools,” Sebring said.

This sensible recommendation is long overdue, and the school board should adopt it unanimously.

School board member Jonathan Narcisse is unpopular with his colleagues. But to his credit, he had been demanding a thorough review of the contract with Taylor Ohde Kitchell for years. Unfortunately, the majority of Des Moines school board members in a position to do something about this matter dismissed the concerns of those who criticized the contract, including Narcisse and Nan Stillians.

Last year attorney Nicholas Critelli investigated this matter and found that Taylor Ohde Kitchell didn’t comply with the law on competitive bidding for school projects. Critelli recommended that the Des Moines school board terminate the contract with the construction management firm and consider filing suit as well. However, the majority on the school board voted not to sue or even terminate the contract early.

As a parent of a child in the Des Moines public school system, I hate seeing big money continue to be spent on this contract, but it’s comforting to know that the current superintendent doesn’t plan to repeat her predecessor’s mistakes.

The Des Moines Register covered other recommendations from Sebring and the facilities committee here. If the school board approves the plan, Des Moines schools that weren’t renovated during the past decade with local-option sales tax money are likely to have some improvements funded by state sales tax revenue.

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