Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Confusion Part Three: Where Will That Capital Money Come to Help Closures?

So we have all seen that the district staff (and the Board) have been talking about various capital projects that will be needed to help manage the capacity issues. Things like adding a science lab(s) to Cooper should Pathfinder (a K-8) move into the building, finally(!) putting money into SBOC when they move into Meany (if that happens as well), Old Hay, Blaine, etc.

But where will we find that money? I mean, there may be some money still in the BTA levy (or projects could be added to the upcoming BTA levy in Feb. 2010). But that means other projects don't get done. And, of course, money is already committed in BEX III to its projects. Or is it?

I guess it is if a project is working at a breakneck speed. From the November 2008 New School newsletter:

"Thanks to an intense construction schedule of 10 hour days and 6 day weeks, the project is currently on schedule and New School staff and students are set to move in to start the 2009-10 school year."

Now that took me aback. Ten hour days, 6 days a week?

Now folks, in all my time doing research on capital projects, I have never seen this. Oh sure, a little when they were falling behind towards the end of the project and had to hustle to finish. But to put a project on a 16-month schedule (also largely unheard of) AND working 6 days a week (paying time-and-a-half at least to the construction workers for that 6th day) really makes you wonder what is so special about this project.

Oh, right...it's New School (which, by the way, is going to be renamed South Shore School Pre-K-8).

Now I didn't just read the newsletter; I called the Heery Construction person listed as the contact for this project. He verified that yes, they were working on a fast track and when his company is asked, by the hiring entity (that would be our district) to get it done, Heery gets it done. So yes, the district ASKED for this pace and is WILLING to pay the extra money it is costing to get it done. Now, I would do due diligence and call the Facilities staff (in fact I can't wait to hear this story) but naturally, no one is available this week at the district.

Unbelievable. We are really supposed to take these people - and I mean the folks in Facilities - seriously when they give us building condition numbers (which are going to change under the new(!) survey now being done by Meng Analysis), take them seriously when they pour a lot of money into buildings only to turn around and close them and now, take their BEX budgets as believable.

Again, I ask...how do some people sleep at night?

6 comments:

dan dempsey said...

This just gets stranger and stranger. Perhaps some of those that contributed over $400,000 in campaign donations to the winning school board candidates in the last election will be buying surplus properties and that money can finance closures consolidation and paying for accelerated construction schedules.

It just was not that long ago that the district was so concerned about rapidly rising construction costs and decided to fast track construction to save money. Guess the future is a little hard to predict.

Unless of course one predicts SPS confusion. Quite a crew that Dr. MG-J inherited from Mr. Manhas. Rome was not built in a day. MG-J has been here a year and a half are things getting better?

uxolo said...

from the New School site:

"The only difference in hiring between the New School ... the school can hire three teachers early each year, in consideration of the fact that the school is adding a grade level each year." This is apparently an enormous advantage.
"The current commitment to The New School is for ten years and is scheduled to end in 2012." Keep in mind, this foundation had supported TT Minor. So the New School will be funded progressively less and less over the next 3 years and will have to support almost 3x the number of students if they are part of a merger.

The link for FInancials isn't working at the moment.

Here's a short summary of the BEX III bond from a Seattle PI post (from 6/07) by former School Board Director, Sally Soriano:
"1) The school construction package included $64M to construct a brand new building for a 5 year old program called the New School. The New School which receives private foundation funding was shoved to the front of the line of the line ahead of all the other schools that had patiently waited 10-20 years to be remodeled (i.e. Roxhill, Arbor Heights, Northgate). The board had just closed the Columbia building (Orca) and Rainier View in SE so there were buildings available to house the New School without new construction. It is fiscally irresponsible, with empty buildings available, to build something new! Why should a school with private funding receive such privilege?

2) In a board work session it was proposed that Nathan Hale HS receive a seismic retrofit ($35 million). Within a month, the discussion had moved beyond a seismic retrofit to include a remodel for another $35 million. The board never received a rationale for prioritizing Nathan Hale's remodel over the know seismic retrofit issues comparable to Nathan Hale's at other schools. This issue was never discussed and debated. PTSA mom and researcher, Melissa Westbrook, thoroughly documented these concerns (see her op-eds). A member of the BEXII citizen's oversight committee also expressed concern after hearing these arguments from Melissa."

Can't find the MOU online.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, also in the MOU (which you have to ask for through legal)is that New School Foundation has veto power over their principal. No other group, no PTA, no one in this district has the power to do that except New School. So I have no idea why New School Foundation continues to say they have no special pull in the district when, clearly, they do.

dan dempsey said...

Melissa said:
So I have no idea why New School Foundation continues to say they have no special pull in the district when, clearly, they do.
------------------------
I guess it is just part of the grand dis-information plan. Check the Strategic Plan to make sure ;-)

Laura Kohn said...

I apologize that the partnership agreement is not online, but I'm happy to forward it to anyone who sends me an email at laura@newschoolfoundation.org.

In the partnership agreement, the provisions regarding principal selection allow the New School Foundation to interview the finalists for the position and give our input to the superintendent. The superintendent is under no obligation to give any weight to our opinion.

Regarding hiring, though the partnership agreement does allow the New School to hire its expansion positions early, it has not to-date availed itself of this option.

I'm happy to field inquiries at any time at the email address above.

Laura Kohn
Executive Director
New School Foundation

Charlie Mas said...

What is the plan for The New School? What is the enrollment target? Will it have a reference area or will it continue to be a choice school? Will The New School come to have its proportionate number of disabled students of all types when students with IEPs get services in distributed locations instead of programs in select locations? Is there a plan for all of this or will it just get worked out as time passes? And if it is worked out or if it is already planned, who are the decision-makers?

I am looking forward to the day when some of the things that are done at The New School get done at other schools as well. Why aren't decisions made for Dunlap (just to choose a school close to hand) made the same way as they are made for The New School with the same sort of representation at the table? Why isn't there a Dunlap Foundation with an M.O.U. with the District? When will we see some of the successful practices from The New School adopted for use at other buildings? What is the plan for that? Who is responsible for that? Where is the accountability for that?

Actually, now that I come to think about it, why isn't there a Dunlap Foundation with an M.O.U. with the District? Surely the District doesn't require some minimum contribution for such things, do they?

If the District is willing to enter into an agreement with The New School Foundation, then wouldn't they be equally willing to enter into an agreement with, say, The Project NOVA Foundation? And couldn't that agreement make the stipulations about facilities and authority? I don't think that the District has a price tag on such agreements, so The Project NOVA Foundation doesn't have to donate at least $200,000 or some such amount to bring the District to the table, do they?

Hmmm. A lot to ponder.