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School maintenance stinks

Yolanda Huang Yolanda Huang, Yolanda Huang,
Saturday December 08, 2001

The Daily Planet received a copy of these comments read to the Board of Education at a recent meeting: 


Good evening, My name is Yolanda Huang and I am the chair of the statutory committee formed by Measure BB to provide citizen oversight and planning, aptly named the Citizens Advisory Committee.  

I am here to tonight, because I am confused, and I hope that the board will educate me.  

Two years ago, with funding from BSEP, this board hired ABM Consultants to review the district’s maintenance department and provide recommendations. Those recommendations were formulated into a business plan, which this board declined to follow. We were told, the new Superintendent has a better plan. 

And so I’m confused because at the Dec. 5 board meeting, this board approved hiring ABM to manage the maintenance department and provide consultant upon request.  

I like ABM. ABM is one of the best firms in the area. Their review was thorough. I liked their recommendations and thought them sound. But, you didn’t like their recommendations. I’m confused as to why you are hiring them to run the maintenance department, at a hefty fee of $10,000 per month.  

I’m also confused as to this better plan being implemented. When we proposed the business plan adopted by this board in May and later rejected, we used solid, qualified consultants (primarily ABM), and industry standards. In this better plan, I don’t know what the standards are being applied. I’ve been told that Paramount Unified, our new Superintendent’s former school district has great maintenance, and I’ve requested three times in the past – and this is the fourth time I’m requesting information on Paramount’s staffing levels, square footage, organizational chart. It’s wonderful that Paramount had clean schools, mowed lawns and clipped hedges. But so does Oakland. Why aren’t we adopting Oakland’s system? What are the standards by which decisions are being based? Please enlighten me. I’m not an expert on maintenance. I’m just a householder. I know that I maintain a household with a mowed lawn, trimmed bushes, and a well maintained building. My bathroom does not smell. My kitchen is tidy. As a householder, I know that it is worker bees that do the maintaining.  

This last week, the drain in the boys bathroom at Willard, had been plugged and the bathroom could not be properly cleaned. The wretched smell of the bathroom was seeping into the hallway, and disturbing the students in the classroom next door. So, Willard, hired a non-district worker bee, a plumber, who unstopped the drain and the bathroom was finally cleaned.  

One week last month, I walked into the principal’s office at Willard. Curiously, one wall was painted yellow. 

The next week, I walked in again, and a second wall had been painted yellow. I was told, this is a work in progress. Apparently, Willard’s principal, a single mother, with a third grader at Emerson, had been using what little spare time she had, to come in on weekends to paint her walls.  

With these torrential rains, the old leak in the principal’s office also came back. And to preserve the décor of her room, the principal at Willard has brought in plants instead of buckets, and rotates them, so that all plants can all be equally watered.  

I’m sure I speak for many people, who would be happy to retire from maintenance if only Berkeley Unified had some more worker bees. Could you please tell us, when we will get worker bees?  


Yolanda Huang,  

Chair Maintenance Oversight & Planning Committee