“The Conroe ISD’s $807 Million Bond Set For May 4 Election: Part 4 Of 4, a flawed decision process produced the gargantuan $807 million bond.”

“The Conroe ISD’s $807 Million Bond Set For May 4 Election: Part 4 Of 4, a flawed decision process produced the gargantuan $807 million bond.”

Image: In one of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency convinced new President John F. Kennedy to proceed with the Bay of Pigs Invasion on April 17, 1961, where a small group of Cuban defectors and American advisors tried to take Cuba back from the increasingly pro-Communist government of Fidel Castro. The invasion suffered disastrous results and likely strengthened Castro’s resolve to turn towards the Soviet Union as an ally. It was the classic result of “groupthink” in decision making just as the Conroe Independent School District’s gargantuan $807 million bond package most clearly is.

Conroe, March 9 – The Conroe Independent School District’s (CISD) $807,000,000 bond proposal, set for election on May 4, 2019, clearly emanates from a flawed decision process driven completely from the school bureaucracy’s desire to have a “slush fund” with which to play. The bond lacks any cost basis, any demographic rationale, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any educational outcome goals. Please see the previous three Parts of this article series.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion

The April 17, 1961, Bay of Pigs Invasion, where a small group of Cuban defectors and American advisors, tried to take Cuba from Communist Fidel Castro and his government, was one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) convinced nubile President John F. Kennedy to go forward with the unrealistic plan.

Yale University psychologist Irving Janis marked his great career as a student of how decisions occur with his award-winning book Victims of groupthink; a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes, which he published in 1972. Janis studied the irrational decisions to proceed with the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which he concluded occurred as a result of impartial leadership and deficient analysis. Janis summarized the flawed decision making, which he referred to as “groupthink” using George Orwell’s apt term:

“At each meeting, instead of opening up the agenda to permit a full airing of the opposing considerations, he [President Kennedy] allowed the CIA representatives to dominate the entire discussion. The president permitted them to refute each tentative doubt immediately that one of the others might express, instead of asking whether anyone else had the same doubt or wanted to pursue the implications of the new worrisome issue that had been raised.”

In other words, groupthink is a decision process which mimics some attributes of open decision making but, instead, begins with leadership which seeks to validate decisions already fixed in their minds. That’s the CISD’s decision process to get this community to an $807 million bond and tax hike, to the letter.

In other words, groupthink is a decision process which mimics some attributes of open decision making but, instead, begins with leadership which seeks to validate decisions already fixed in their minds. That’s the CISD’s decision process to get this community to an $807 million bond and tax hike, to the letter.

Shocking latest CISD revelation

Early in the morning of Friday, March 8, 2019, CISD’s General Counsel Carrie Galatas responded to a Texas Public Information Act/Open Records Act request from the Publisher of this newspaper. The request and CISD’s response follow.

Here’s the list of the documents, which The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, submitted to CISD:

1. All backup documents supporting the “Cost estimates…derived from a variety of sources including information provided by architects, engineers, other area school districts, historical data from CISD projects, and CISD’s own knowledge of market prices” for the CISD’s proposed bond package (to which Ms. Blakelock referred in her email below of even date herewith ;

2. All takeoffs supporting the aforementioned cost estimates;

3. All bids, estimates, calculations, and invoices for the aforementioned cost estimates;

4. All transmittal letters or presentation documents which transmitted or presented the items 1, 2, or 3 above (other than the “Cost estimates” themselves) to the non-CISD employee members of the Facilities Planning Committee for the CISD’s proposed bond package.




Here’s a screen shot of Galatas’ and CISD’s response:

CISD General Counsel Carrie Galatas’ response to Open Records Act request, March 8, 2019.

CISD admitted it has no “bids, estimates, calculations, and invoices” for the cost estimates behind the $807 million bond and no “takeoffs supporting” the cost estimates!

In response to the request for “backup documents” behind the “cost estimates” for the allegedly $807 million worth of projects, CISD provided only one 258 page document. Here’s the first page of the 258 page document supposedly constituting the sole “backup” for the CISD’s request for $807 million of money from local taxpayers:

First page of PBK Architects’ 2015 Facilities Assessment for the 2015 CISD bond package totaling $487 million!

In other words, CISD’s only backup for the 2019 $807 million bond package is a 258-page estimate of maintenance and construction needs, which PBK Architects prepared for the 2015 bond package of $487 million, which voters already approved! There is no backup whatsoever for the $807 million in expenditures, which CISD claims it wants to spend for projects in the current bond package. Each line item has no basis whatsoever except the clear blue air from which CISD pulled the numbers!!!

In other words, CISD’s only backup for the 2019 $807 million bond package is a 258-page estimate of maintenance and construction needs, which PBK Architects prepared for the 2015 bond package of $487 million, which voters already approved! There is no backup whatsoever for the $807 million in expenditures, which CISD claims it wants to spend for projects in the current bond package. Each line item has no basis whatsoever except the clear blue air from which CISD pulled the numbers!!!

How did we get to this terrible point in a broken process where a gargantuan school bureaucracy would have the gall to ask for $807 million just because it feels like it?!

The real question voters in CISD should ask is:

Nothing we’ve seen would suggest the decision process was reliable within the CISD organization. By now, even members of the Facilities Planning Committee should ask whether they should support the $807 million bond.

Fundamentally, as Janis and another great decision theorist, Harvard University’s Graham Allison, have recognized: bureaucratic organizations are fundamentally of two types. Those which make decisions from the top down through dictates and those which engender decisions from the bottom up through open thinking and discussion.

It’s not intended as a criticism of the top down decision makers, but, nevertheless, there’s no question that organizations such as your local Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Montgomery County Animal Shelter Advisory Board, and the Montgomery County Republican Party of old are top down organizations which discourage a diversity of ideas. Those groups are idea accepters.

In contrast, go to a meeting of the new Montgomery County Republican Party, a state democrat convention, the NAACP National Convention, or the Montgomery County Tea Party, where you’ll observe discussion, debate, challenges to accepted notions, and new ideas. Those groups are idea creators.

Clearly, CISD follows the idea accepter pattern. CISD, on its website, described how the $807 million bond package came into being:

Source: CISD.

On the recommendation of CISD’s administrative bureaucracy, CISD’s Board of Trustees appointed a Facilities Planning Committee which had 27 “community members” who met with 14 CISD administrators, who ran the Facilities Planning Committee meetings while the community members mostly listened. In December, 2018, the Facilities Planning Committee then regurgitated back to the CISD administration the $827 million bond back, which the CISD administration wanted to hear.

CISD’s administration proposed to the Board of Trustees at a January 15, 2019, meeting that CISD could spend $20 million of its cash on hand for some of the projects, so the Board then rubber-stamped the CISD administration’s $807 million bond package to send to the voters for approval.

There was a small problem along the way when Dale Inman, a conservative activist who had recently won election to the CISD Board of Trustees, proposed a “needs” versus “wants” bond of $304 million as a substitute for the $807 million bloated package. Inman is a problem, because he dares to think outside of what the CISD administration tells him to think and say.

Don’t worry; Inman’s proposed $304 million bond package substitute died for lack of a second. By the way, Inman is the only member of the Board of Trustees who refuses to abide by the CISD’s administrations so-called “code of conduct” which prohibits Board of Trustees members from fulfilling their statutory duty under the Texas Education Code to manage the district. The other six Board members have agreed – in writing – to abdicate their duty to the CISD bureaucracy, which doesn’t permit them to investigate or oversee the management and operation of the school district.

The following is a partial list of what Inman proposed to leave out of the bond package:

Clearly, any sort of robust discussion at the Board of Trustees level of CISD is far beyond what the school district’s bureaucratic administration would condone in a top-down decision methodology. Inman never had an opportunity to discuss those matters at the January 15 Board meeting, as CISD’s Board President gaveled Inman down.

After the Board approved the $807 million bond package and sent it forward to the voters, CISD began an indoctrination process. The main aspect of the advocacy is CISD has sent Superintendent Curtis Null, a licensed massage therapist and holder of a doctorate in the nonacademic field of “professional leadership,” into the community to advocate for the bond.

Null denies that he advocates. That’s utterly silly. Null provides a canned speech everywhere he goes which argues in favor of the $807 million bond package based upon CISD’s 2018 demographic study, which actually makes the argument against the bond, since the school district doesn’t reach 120% capacity of schools even during the next ten (10) years.

Null usually won’t answer questions. Null won’t debate. Null refuse to appear on “It’s Hammer Time” to make his presentation. In fact, the following organizations have helped to protect Null:

The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce will only allow Null to speak to several of its committees and to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.

The Conroe Chamber of Commerce will only allow Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.

The Greater Houston Builders Association will only allow Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.

The Houston Area Realtors, Montgomery County Chapter, will only allow Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.

The Conroe Rotary will only allow Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.

The pro-bond political action committee, which largely overlaps with the CISD’s Facilities Planning Committee, will only allow Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.

The Woodlands Rotary will only allow Null to speak to its membership. Any organization attempting to present the full set of facts about the bond may not present.

The Liberty Belles Republican Women won’t allow anyone to speak about the bond.

The Woodlands Republican Women won’t allow anyone to speak about the bond.

The Woodlands Township has invited Null to speak in an untimed presentation about the bond. After strenuous objection, the Woodlands Township will allow someone providing the full set of facts about the bond to speak during citizen comments for no more than 9 minutes.

In fact, here’s Null’s calendar of speaking events, as of last week:

Curtis Null’s calendar of advocacy in favor of the $807 million CISD bond.

None of the organizations or individuals on Null’s advocacy calendar have invited the Children’s Hope PAC to present the full facts about the bond with one major exception: the Montgomery County Tea Party did allow the Children’s Hope PAC to make a presentation. Otherwise, it’s all one-sided: Null versus nothing.

“Otherwise, it’s all one-sided: Null versus nothing.” (No one may speak against the bond while Null speaks around the community to advocate for it.)

Conclusion

CISD has no backup documentation or basis for asking $807 million in a tax hike from the taxpayers, which will result in a 64% increase in school taxes over the coming eight (8) years.

CISD appointed a committee to give it the $807 million bond it wanted. The committee did what CISD told it to do. The Board followed the school district administration’s direction, while having to shut up one problem Board member who dared to raise questions and concerns.

Now, CISD’s Null tours the community advocating for the $807 million bond package in forums where the “leaders” do not allow any discussion of “worrisome issues.”

In summary, CISD’s $807 million bond package is the school district’s Bay of Pigs Invasion ready to happen…unless the voters stop it on May 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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