Thursday, January 29, 2015

Travis School District kills pact for recess consultant

From page A5 | May 14, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — A proposed $47,900 pact with a nonprofit to consult about recess died Tuesday without discussion by Travis School District trustees after the superintendent took the proposal off the agenda, where it was part of routine items for approval.

“It’s a dead issue,” Superintendent Kate Wren Gavlak said as she left the school board meeting. “That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

Trustees did not discuss the proposal that included the option for additional consulting at $2,000 a day – plus travel costs – by the Bay Area nonprofit Playworks. But during public comment, two parents of students in the school district sharply questioned the contract.

“Children inherently know how to play at recess,” parent Tracy Young said. “Let the kids be kids.”

“It is a complete waste of time to spend nearly $48,000 on a program for recess,” she said.

Young, noting Playworks’ recommendation for implementing “recess systems,” asked, “Why do we need a ‘system’ for recess?”

Parent Mark Ackerman told trustees the school district already has specialists who know about play – P.E. coaches.

“Do we need to have expert consultants to teach our kids how to play?” he asked.

Travis Trustee John Dickerson, who said Monday he wanted to know more about the contract and that the $2,000 represented a “monstrous payday” and was “outrageously high” for a playground consultant, said after the school board meeting that the agreement could conceivably return to trustees.

“It’s a nonissue now,” he said.

Elizabeth Cushing, president and chief operating officer for Playworks in Oakland, said in an email Tuesday before the school board meeting that when Dickerson speaks with principals, teachers and students, he’ll hear their concerns and the reason why the district requested help from Playworks.

“In general, what we hear from principals and other school officials and teachers around the country is that recess is often an unsafe and scary place for children,” Cushing said. “There is fighting, bullying and chaos. And children’s experience on the playground is unfortunately becoming a significant detractor from the teaching and learning that is the focus of schooling.”

“Playworks’ addresses these concerns by offering a program that enables all children to feel included and to resolve problems without resorting to unsafe behavior,” she said.

Cushing said the program receives $2 million in federal funds for AmeriCorps members who are trained by Playworks to serve as coaches in schools across the country. No AmeriCorps members were part of the proposed contract with Travis, she said.

Ivery Hood, president of the board of trustees for Travis, said of the proposal that, “There really wasn’t enough information for the board to make a decision.”

He declined to say whether the $2,000-day-consultant fee was excessive.

“People are providing services and they make their proposals,” Hood said.

The proposed contract with Travis School District included “recess implementation training,” “consultative visits” and a “coordinated recess system that helps shift the entire school culture.”

Consultant visits would have included recess observations, modeling of games with children and a playground assessment. The contract would have paid $30,000 for 20 consultant visits.

Playworks is a nonprofit public benefit corporation operated for charitable purposes, stated the proposed agreement with the Travis district.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy

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