Education News

HISD Top Administrator Calls Audit on Construction Bond “Flawed”

“I think the short answer is that we believe that it’s flawed,” said HISD’s chief operating officer Leo Bobadilla.

Gerry Monroe with the United Urban Alumni Association spoke before the HISD school board at its October meeting. He has criticized the bond program and is concerned that Jack Yates High School will not get what it was promised.
Gerry Monroe with the United Urban Alumni Association spoke before the HISD school board at its October meeting. He has criticized the bond program and is concerned that Jack Yates High School will not get what it was promised.

This week, auditors found that the Houston school district’s building program has suffered from weak supervision and not enough competitive bidding.

Top administrators in HISD, however, disagree with those findings.

“I think the short answer is that we believe that it’s flawed,” said HISD’s chief operating officer Leo Bobadilla at the school board meeting Thursday night.

Trustee Juliet Stipeche followed up with a question: “I’m sorry. You believe your analysis is flawed?”

“No, the findings in the audit report, that they’re flawed,” Bobadilla said.

HISD has not yet released the final audit and an official response as of Friday afternoon. 

District administrators maintain that inflation is why the building program is short more than $200 million.

But some school board members are hesitant that’s the only reason.

“There’s something happening. It’s so much more than what we originally had,” said Trustee Mike Lunceford. He said that he can’t vote on any more bond contracts until they get to the bottom of the problem.

“Is it inflation? Is it process? Is it what? That’s what I’m trying to understand. But I know there’s a gap here that’s huge. If it’s not inflation, it’s something else,” Lunceford said.

Another question that board members and residents are asking is if the current budgets for school projects will cover all the work.

“So, the answer to the question, quite frankly, is we don’t know,” said Superintendent Terry Grier, as people in the HISD board auditorium started to laugh. “What we do think is this – I’m being very honest!”

Grier went on to explain that it’s hard to know until projects go out for bid because market conditions change.

But even after those bids and contracts are done, the preliminary audit found that excessive designs have pushed up costs.

Trustee Wanda Adams said that contractors need to stay on budget.

“They can’t design a school, a Taj Mahal, and say, This is what you deserve,’ and then we have to come back and say, ‘We need an additional $10 million,’ with some of the issues that’s causing confusion now,” Adams said. “I just want us to be as transparent as possible because these are tax-payer dollars.'”

To check on that public spending, HISD put out a request for proposals to hire an external audit firm to review the $2 billion construction program, which voters approved in 2012.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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