Virtual meeting screenshot with eight people, the west contra costa school district, and the interior of a school cafeteria with a lectern and rows of folding chairs shown in separate boxes

WCCUSD to ‘Lease-Leaseback’ Kennedy, Richmond High Schools

Virtual meeting screenshot with eight people, the west contra costa school district, and the interior of a school cafeteria with a lectern and rows of folding chairs shown in separate boxes

(Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

In hopes of getting the most out of its money, the West Contra Costa Unified School District is looking to try something new with the Kennedy High and Richmond High modernization projects.

The school board last week agreed to a “lease-leaseback” construction delivery method that allows the district to lease the two properties out as long as the contract requires the lessee to construct the projects. 

District staff says this method allows for “more innovative solutions” because the contractors and architects will work together before construction, allowing problems that may typically arise during construction to be solved beforehand. 

Some problems during construction will come to the board, usually in the form of a change order, which requires approval to increase the cost of a contract. In previous meetings, the board has questioned if some contractors intentionally underbid projects only to increase their price in a change order later. 

Lease-leaseback can avoid this. Unlike the method WCCUSD uses for most projects — the design bid-build method — the lease-leaseback method does not award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. Instead, a contract is awarded using the “best value selection,” according to Melissa Payne, WCCUSD’s executive director of contracts. 

Though lease-leaseback has never been used in the district, Payne said other integrated construction delivery methods, where all parties collaborate, have saved money for WCCUSD. The district used another integrated method, the design-build method, for the Michelle Obama School and Lake Elementary campus replacement. 

The use of the lease-leaseback method, which was approved in a 3-1-1 vote with trustee Mister Phillips abstaining and trustee Leslie Reckler voting against, means the contractor and architect for both projects will be under contract with the district. The district would lease portions of the campus undergoing construction to the contractor, which would then be leased back to the district after construction.

Phillips said he did not see how the design-build and lease-leaseback methods were different and felt more comfortable sticking to what the district has already done. 

Schematic design for Kennedy and Richmond is expected to be finished in July and design development will begin. 

If they change their minds on how construction services should be delivered, the board can revoke approval of the lease-leaseback method for the two projects in future meetings. 

Jewish American Heritage Month

The board passed a proclamation recognizing May 2024 as Jewish American Heritage Month, acknowledging the contributions of Jewish community members and encouraging education to reduce antisemitism. 

In the proclamation, the board highlighted cultural values local Jewish community members practice in support of others: tikkun olam and g’milut chasadim, Hebrew phrases that translate to “repair of the world” and “acts of loving-kindness.” 

Reckler, who is Jewish, spoke briefly about her family’s expulsion from Spain in the 1400s because of being Jewish, the following years before moving to the U.S., and the various contributions of the Jewish community during that time. She ended her comments with an excerpt from the White House’s Jewish American Heritage Month proclamation

“We celebrate the contributions, culture, and values that they have passed down from generation to generation and that have shaped who we are as Americans,” Reckler read from that proclamation. “We remember that the power lies within each of us to rise together against hate, to see each other as fellow human beings, and to ensure that the Jewish community is afforded the safety, security, and dignity they deserve as they continue to shine their light in America and around the world.”

Phillips recognized Reckler and the contributions the Jewish community has made to the civil rights movement. 

“I think sometimes we forget (their contributions), but it’s very important and has been very essential to the progress we’ve made and will continue to make,” said Phillips.

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