Travis School District kills pact for recess consultant

By 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


Discussion | 10 comments

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  • MikeMay 14, 2014 - 5:05 am

    Travis' staff should be admonished for bringing this proposal forward. The trustees didn't propose this, the staff brought this forward on the agenda, that's where the outrage should be addressed. Keep an eye on other frivolous spending.

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  • The MisterMay 14, 2014 - 6:48 am

    Let the finger-pointing begin!

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  • clancyMay 14, 2014 - 9:03 am

    They want it to be a dead issue cause they hot caught trying yo cheat the tax payers. I hope it is not a dead issue and whomever tried to put this into place is fired. We need to know what else they are spending money on. Is there some kind of watch dog group that can keep us informed?

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  • Rich GiddensMay 14, 2014 - 10:56 am

    Travis Unified is a cost effective stellar school district. They are simply the best! Our Superintendent is the best in the County and works for only a fraction of what the other County School District Supes work for! I'm really happy with the job they've done----in fact, they are the only Governmental entity around here who did a great job for us. I owe them a great debt of gratitude. In this matter the District (as usual) did the right thing. Even Ryan did a good job by reporting the facts to the public.

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  • Rick WoodMay 14, 2014 - 12:35 pm

    A victory for demagoguery.

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  • NONONOMay 14, 2014 - 3:31 pm

    You just don't get it, Rick. This idea was bad, really bad, and a terrible waste of scarce education dollars.

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  • Rick WoodMay 14, 2014 - 3:58 pm

    No, I get it perfectly. It wasn't so bad it didn't get a staff recommendation for approval. So it was at least good enough to learn about. It got yanked because of demagoguery and people who think they know better without any real research. So this was a victory not only for demagoguery but also ignorance.

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  • Danny BuntinMay 14, 2014 - 10:33 pm

    If the end game was clear cut, I am all for listening at new ideas and methods. Unfortunately, this had nearly no upside. Couple that with the fact that people hear "Recess Consultant", and go "what the heck". That is like having a water closet wipe consultant. We all know what to do in that situation.

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  • Heather KellyMay 14, 2014 - 1:27 pm

    Since when have we had news reports about children playing on the playground unsafely??? That's what teachers are for! That's what playground monitors are for! That's what children who have been taught correctly by their parents and siblings are for. They set a good example, and most 99.9 percent of the other children follow them! Why not pay the children to teach other children how to play? $48,000 is a bit much, so is $2,000 a day! Yeah for Social Media! Keep on it Mama Bears!

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  • Mr. SmithMay 14, 2014 - 2:10 pm

    When I was a student at a large junior high school in San Antonio, Texas, we had our own "Recess Consultant." It was Mr. Denham, the school's vice principal. He spent every recess roaming about the playground, carrying his trusty paddle--and using it on kids who got too rough or got into fights. If you wanted to know where Mr. Denham was, you just looked for a large gathering of kids. They would follow him around the yard, much like a flock of sea birds will follow a boat at sea, hoping for some food (or entertainment, in this case). After recesses, Mr. Denham would return to his office to administer swats to those otherwise unpunished miscreants who got collared by the Safety Patrol and brought to the office to await their fate. In those days, I doubt Mr. Denham's yearly salary was much more than the $2,000 daily fee mentioned here. How times have changed!

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