AS IF YOU ASKED
Let’s not be surprised if our kids tell us the school board wants
them to campaign for incumbent board members, calling it required
homework. That hyperbole might not seem so wild to those who recently
saw the board use its own dais for a campaign stunt posing as a staff
report, a feeble show calculated to refute criticism incumbents face
The topic is installing “dual pane” windows in new or remodeled
schools. They’re made from two sheets of glass separated by a space
that is either a vacuum or filled with an inert gas. City
conservation experts, teachers and others have roasted the district
for not using the energy-saving products. Especially with some rooms
in Burbank High School sweltering despite new air-conditioning
equipment, and with soaring electric bills named as one unexpected
cost crippling district budgets, candidates have criticized the
board’s decision to use windows less efficient than dual-panes.
Last year, when city utility executives lectured that dual-panes
save more money in use than their extra cost, board members said they
didn’t have the cash up front, and future savings couldn’t fill
today’s coffers. But that logic has been dumped. Now we’re told the
board did the “smart” thing in the first place.
At its last meeting, the board received a staff report titled
“Dual Glazed Windows.” It was the sort of report for detailed
discussion, but no action, usually saved for nontelevised meetings.
Last summer’s session with the board reviewing budget cuts warranted
the off-camera “study” atmosphere, but the window report merited TV
The presentation from Ali Kiafar, BUSD’s superintendent of
facilities, included testimony from two men, one a district employee,
another from a firm the district hired. Hold your hats when you hear
the bomb the trio dropped. They said they did exactly the right thing
by not installing more dual-pane windows!
Kiafar said one of the district’s architects never uses dual pane
in schools, and that another, the team that designed John Burroughs
High School, also never used them, “until very recently on a couple
of projects that wanted to do that.” I suppose that’s the same as
“The firm never uses dual-pane.”
Kiafar didn’t rest. Reaching across a galaxy of sources for
independent information from utilities, the federal government,
universities -- perhaps even window manufacturers -- Kiafar called to
the microphone one of his own staff, Mohammad Kashani-Jou, and an
architect from the previously mentioned firm. To the shock and
surprise of no one, both repeated opinions Kiafar attributed to them.
And that was the staff’s report on windows.
The architect, John Thomas, offered a harsh assessment of
dual-pane technology. “It is guaranteed to fail within 15 years,”
Thomas said. A failure means the seal between the two panes leaks,
usually requiring replacement. Moments later, Thomas was asked about
dual-pane warranties. “I’m not that familiar with the warranties on
them because we don’t use the product,” Thomas said.
Got that? He told the board a product is guaranteed to fail and
require replacement, but couldn’t answer a question integral to
determining the cost of such a failure because he doesn’t use and
didn’t know enough about the product.
Thomas guessed dual-pane warranties last 10 or 15 years, but added
he’s “heard of” lifetime warranties. He prefaced his opinion the
warranties rely on homes changing hands by smirking and saying, “My
guess on where those come from ... " A guess was fine with the board,
though how it related to a warranty on district windows wasn’t
explained. Indeed, the standard warranty on single-pane windows the
district did buy is 10 years, just what Thomas said devious dual-pane
makers offer. But the BUSD paid for an upgraded “lifetime” warranty
guaranteeing windows “free of defects in materials and workmanship
that significantly impair their operation,” loaded terms like the
dual-pane warranty Thomas mocked.
It took me only minutes to find dual-pane manufacturers offering a
40-year warranty standard with their product, and others offering
standard lifetime warranties. Further, the Insulating Glass
Certification Council has data reflecting 20 years of failure-free
use of dual-pane windows, and city building officials say the IGCC
told them some manufacturers have data indicating a 50-year life
Even if the atrocious failure rate were true, and if the
warranties were bogus, studies done in California climates by San
Diego Gas and Electric, and others, found dual-pane windows can repay
their cost in as little as five years. Kiafar didn’t even pretend to
solicit opinions from that side. He testified he’s done a great job,
and that suited the board just fine.
Incumbents Mike McDonald and Elena Hubbell led the questions,
eager to arm themselves for candidate forums. They effectively asked
staff to restate everything, ignoring obvious gaps. For example, with
20 minutes spent ridiculing dual-pane warranties, not one of the
geniuses thought to ask what the warranty term is for windows the
district did buy. I did that myself days later. The report didn’t
include even one calculation of energy savings vs. cost to illustrate
the supposed folly, and no board member cared.
Board member Trish Burnett weighed the report and said, “Somebody
told me [the city] didn’t use dual-glazed windows in the new Buena
Vista Library ... and I was thinking this would make perfect sense if
Perhaps that was the same somebody who told Burnett the L.A.
County District Attorney is wrong in opining the board violates state
public- meeting laws. Burbank Director of Public Works Bruce Feng
told me, “The Buena Vista library is completely dual-glazed.”
The board wrapped up by rejecting dual panes for a job underway at
Muir Middle School, citing costs estimated at $100,000. Hubbell noted
budget woes, and dramatically declared, “We’d need to look at where
we will cut $100,000. What are we not going to have at that school?”
Great stump speech, but it pretends Hubbell wasn’t in City Hall
on May 24, when city officials explained that Burbank’s utility is
compelled by law to set aside hundreds of thousands of dollars each
year to pay for conservation projects.
The city manager, utility director and two council members
explained in detail for Hubbell and board president Richard Raad that
adding dual-pane windows to district projects would be an ideal use
of the cash.
At this month’s meeting, Hubbell said, “What I’m hearing from you
right now tells me the plans that we’ve made are the best plans.”
Kiafar agreed with her wise insight. Hubbell then said she won’t
support using dual-pane windows, “Just because some people in the
community made an issue out of it without doing the research.”
Maybe that’s what is most horrifying. Board members think they’ve
done research. But as we’ve seen in the BUSD’s budget fiascos, when
the panel can no longer conceal evidence of errors, they need only
take the stance McDonald employs on the campaign trail: Blame staff
for providing bad information, and claim to be a victim who can’t be
WILL ROGERS’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He
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