by Chuck Hoven
(December 2018, Plain Press) At its November meeting, the Bond Accountability Commission examined how the Cleveland Metropolitan School District was monitoring its workforce inclusion program and what resources are available to train Clevelanders interested in working in the construction trades. The Bond Accountability Commission (BAC), charged to be a watchdog on behalf of taxpayers to monitor the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s (CMSD) school construction program, held the meeting on November 27that Max Hayes High School.
Bond Accountability Commission (BAC) Executive Director Elise Hara Auvil presented the BAC with a Workforce Inclusion Report. She said the goals of CMSD for minority, female and residential participation in construction employment were the same as those of the City of Cleveland – 20% minority, 5% female and 20% Cleveland residents.
Patrick Zohn, CMSD Chief Operations Officer, said CMSD also has a requirement that contractors are required to provide 400 hours of work to a recent graduate of CMSD for every $1 million dollars in the contract. He said recent graduates mean 2007 or 2008 – (when the requirement started) until now.
While there was a lot of discussion on how to monitor and verify reporting on workforce inclusion, BAC Board Member Jack Bialosky said the real issue is that minority and women workers don’t exist to the extent we would like them to. He cited the need to create workers and businesses with the ability to do the work.
Executive Director Hara Auvil outlined in her report a number of construction training programs that were designed to train individuals for jobs in construction and thus provide contractors with qualified candidates to help meet hiring goals for minorities, females and Cleveland residents. However, with the exception of a program at the Spanish American Committee designed by the Hispanic Contractors Association, most of the training programs failed to track their graduates to see if they obtained jobs in the building trades after graduation.
Hara Auvil said the most successful construction training program is at the Spanish American Committee that has placed 40 graduates in construction trade jobs since 2017. She said the program not only tracks its graduates but offers a lot of support and hand holding to get its graduates into jobs.
Hara Auvil noted that the Construction Employers Association contracts with organizations such as the Urban League and Tri-C to recruit and train construction workers. If successful in their training, recruits become members of various trade unions and work for local contractors.
An organization that once helped women to enter the construction trades, Hard Hatted Women, is no longer viable reported Hara Auvil.
In her report, Hara Auvil noted that Cuyahoga Community College offers a Pre-Apprenticeship Training (PAT) Certificate Program that was created to encourage minorities and women to enter the trades. In the program’s last class, 10 out of 12 students graduated and seven of those students entered the building trades apprenticeship programs, said Hara Auvil. A number of employment programs in Cleveland such as the Urban League, Spanish American Committee, El Bario and Towards Employment partner with Tri-C in this PAT program. Graduates of the program are eligible for union apprenticeships.
CMSD’s High School Construction Program at Max Hayes was also a subject of discussion by the Bond Accountability Committee. Hara Auvil reported that in 2018, only 3 graduates of the program entered into the construction trades after graduation. She said that not every student that goes to Max Hayes, wants to go into the trades. They may be attending the school because it is close to home, or for other reasons.
Board members discussed the challenge of recruiting eighth grade students that wanted to be in the construction trades. Dr. Thomas of CMSD said a good deal of effort goes into making sure eighth grade students choosing a high school are aware of all the choices available among CMSD high schools. BAC Board Member Nancy Schuster questioned the effectiveness of the current high school choice program in getting students into the construction program that want to pursue one of the building trades.
BAC board members wondered how CMSD could become more effective. There was also discussion of how to make the process of getting into union apprenticeships easier. BAC Executive Director Hara Auvil said she suggested to the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council that each of its member unions place their application for apprenticeships on their website. She said they came back with a rather lame excuse that not all the unions had the same information technology capacity.
Hara Auvil also noted that the unions did not track the percentage of women and minorities in their membership and refused to share data on membership characteristics with the public.
In addition to the labor force agreement, the Bond Accountability listened to a report by Interim Chief Information Officer Curtis Timmons on the E-Rate program that reimburses schools for cost of information technology.
In the past, CMSD failed to make E-Rate reports on time to get reimbursed by the federal government and there were problems in verifying if the equipment they received was the equipment for which they contracted.
Timmons explained that under the new system, CMSD no longer purchases equipment but rather services from a contractor to provide information technology systems to the schools under specified criterion. Timmons explained that under this system, the contractor purchases all the hardware needed to provide the services outlined in the contract. Instead of CMSD putting money upfront and seeking reimbursement from the federal government, the contractor now is doing that, and the contractor then seeks reimbursement with the help of CMSD.
CMSD Chief of Operations Patrick Zohn provided the BAC with an update on how CMSD was approaching the revision of its Master Facilities Plan. He said the goal is to move away from a master plan that is based on what the state will fund, and to move toward long term facility planning based on the needs of the school district. The goal is to have the Academic Program staff and the Facilities Operations staff work together in the planning process to make sure school facilities are designed to best serve the academic programing planned for the school. He said a consultant has been hired to make sure that existing buildings and neighborhood demographics are included in the planning process as to where new schools may be needed and what the optimal size of school building populations should be.
Zohn said letters have gone out to stakeholders in the community and CMSD staff hope to interview people as part of the data gathering effort. Zohn says community meetings will be held after the first of the year with the goal of meeting people in locations where they routinely meet. He said social media will also be employed to reach out to the community to get input from residents into the school facility planning process. Zohn says he hopes to have a long-term planning document ready to submit to the Cleveland Board of Education by April of 2019.
Editor’s Note:For more information about the Bond Accountability Commission and for copies of reports it issues, visit the Bond Accountability Commission website at: www.bondaccountability.org.