Over on the Lebo Citizens blog
, Bill Lewis asked me about the high-school construction bids and what they say about the credibility and integrity of the people leading our community from the school district. It’s an interesting question, and because my answer is complicated, I’m going to give it here.
When people say something that turns out to be false, it certainly ought to affect our understanding of their credibility. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be thinking straight. It should also affect our understanding of their integrity, but in what way depends on whether we
believed what they were telling us.
So I’m going to tell you what I believe.
I believe that the folks on the school board are good people, trying to do a good job.
Nothing I’ve seen makes me think otherwise. I also believe the same of superintendent Steinhauer.
And that’s why I believe that the project’s champions genuinely believed
what they were telling us – that they could get the renovation’s price tag down to around $95 million. In my eyes, then, their integrity remains intact.
But their credibility is shot. Almost everything they said about the project’s cost has now proved false, and by such a wide margin it’s hard to believe they know where things actually stand.
In light of the bids, it seems hard to deny that our community must now pay more for the renovation – perhaps $25 million more – than we were told to expect. And, most likely, we must also accept less in return, as parts of the project get lopped off to avoid a referendum that would almost surely fail.
Therefore, because we now know the truth, the school board’s test of integrity begins today.
Faced with overwhelming evidence that their beliefs about the project were off target, what will the school board tell us? Will they tell us that everything is fine? That this renovation is “worth it,” even if it costs $25 million more than expected?
Here’s the problem with that argument: it ignores opportunity cost. If we spend $25 million more than expected on this renovation, that’s $25 million less than expected
we have to invest in other things within the school district. In other words, to go forward with this renovation, we’re going to have to give up $25 million worth of real education
Will the school board tell us that this sacrifice is “worth it”?
Or will they be willing to consider that it’s time to pause, clear our eyes, and take a fresh look at our options?
The test begins today.
Labels: high school renovation, mt. lebanon school board