I attended the BEX Oversight Committee meeting on Friday. As usual, interesting stuff. No Board member attended. Here's a recap.
- the problematic Small Business Hub program seems to be dismantled and nearly shut down. What is interesting is that they absorbed all the 4 employees into the Facilities department. I don't want to be unkind but why? If that program is no longer going to exist, why did we need to keep four people? (This is the program that the State Auditor called out for having morphed from a policy that the Board created to make sure the district did outreach to small/minority businesses wishing to do business with SPS into a $1M a year, 40 class program. Most of the people attending these classes never did any business with SPS which is why the audit said it was improper use of capital funds.) Nearly 2 million dollars will leave our Operations budget and go back to Capital. So we don't even have to wait for the state to cut funding to our district - we do it do ourselves.
- They are still negotiating claims from the Garfield project. I'm thinking it must be pretty big if it's taking this long. Unanticipated fixes: electrical in teachers lounge not working right, athletic equipment ruined due to inadequate storage ($100K), roofing "issues", gym floor buckling. The claims by contractors are up to $2M. Yes, we've spent $120M and counting.
- Hey, working on rebuilding the tennis courts, playfield and softball field at Denny that we already built (and paid for) once. But ya know, things change so what's another replacement cost?
- There was reference to money that may be left over from Hale's project and South Lake High. Good to know because there's lots to do.
- Bill Martin, interim head of Facilities, mention one or two new hires who will be in-house project managers. A good idea but aren't we in poor economic times? We can afford to keep 4 people who worked at a program that is now done AND hire 2 new people?
- More money left over - BEX III will end with $1.9M in reserve. They did end up having to pay more for the Hale greenhouse (you have to have a retrackable roof, right?) and for the remediation at South Shore with their flooring ($1.3-1.4M).
- Mr. Martin said that some people have questioned the co-mingling of BEX and BTA monies. I don't care that they do but it needs to be accounted for in a spreadsheet for all to see. There is NO ONE, I repeat no one in the district who can show the public in any specific way where all the BTA and BEX money goes. It's a disgrace and I have a feeling that's what the State Auditor may call out in the next audit.
- Denny's rebuild is scheduled to be done in March 2011 and move-in in August. That gives them plenty of time to fix anything that isn't working properly before school starts.
- Hale will also be done in March. They are working double-shifts to get the roof done before the winter rains. They also want to move the portables out and it seems they are going to Thorton Creek. Mr. Martin referenced working with Tracy and then went on to say they wanted to create a portable "village" at Thorton Creek.
- Hamilton is completed and occupied but the district continues to have issues with buying different systems and then not being able to control them centrally. (I know, why don't they just buy the same one as central? It's a mystery.)
- There was a bit of mystery around South Shore's final close-out. Apparently they are trying to get different groups together and work through outstanding issues.
- Ingraham. Sigh. So they had a hearing and the district won (but there's an appeal). The judge only allowed a short hearing. The district's legal counsel reported that the appelants said that "the district's educational program is trumped by the trees." Interesting. So the injunction is still in place and there maybe another hearing in 3 weeks. So nothing is likely to happen until after the first of the year.
- Also, they continue to monitor South Shore's air quality (they still have some complaints from staff). They try to run fresh air but as it gets colder it is harder to do. The district has put in a full-time nurse at South Shore. One Committee member suggested doing a "burn" over the holidays (turning up the heat to burn off any odors coming from the new carpet). That was dismissed and I hope this doesn't come back to haunt them.
- Hamilton. More enrollment issues as they have higher enrollment in the band programs. They refurbished one gym to use as band space but it is now not big enough. The principal had wondered about changing another space but the district has said no. There is to be a meeting this week with the principal, the Superintendent(?), Tracy and Bill Martin.
- Found out something interesting about Bailey-Gatzert. They had to get a new roof immediately as theirs was failing. But I didn't know that the light rail will be on two sides of the school. Interesting.
- Hilariously enough, they talked about a security-camera policy in the district. But when I went to speak to Mr. Martin about security cameras for Roosevelt (the only comprehensive high school without them), we have to wait several more years for the BTA III money. When I suggested that this was security issue, not a vanity issue (he said he couldn't show favoritism to Roosevelt), he asked me how long they had been without cameras. Meaning, well, nothing has happened yet. Well, RHS has been vandalized and it's more of an issue at a high school than a elementary. And his answer is basically, the odds are nothing will happen. Well, yes, all of life is a risk but with a school full of kids and staff, that's your attitude? As I have told the Board and the Superintendent (and I told Mr. Martin), anything happens that is worsened by a lack of cameras and this district will never live it down. But I guess that's a risk they don't mind taking.
- Both Franklin and Hale are having issues with their bleachers. Franklin will play their home basketball games at Lincoln this season because their bleacher repair can't be done in time. Hale has a problem with their drives (that bring the bleachers in and out) but the bleachers themselves are good.
Facilities is conducting a survey about classrooms and schools of the future. It is live until November 21st. I do NOT endorse this survey because, as usual, it is not well-written. You have no ability to say "I don't know" only "no opinion" which is not the same thing. Part of me believes the district does write these things in a very purposeful and yet vague manner in order to skew the results. But all I can do is protest this to the Board but what good will that do?
They ended with a little discussion of the future of design for school buildings. It's funny because on the one hand they like flexible space (although it costs more) and more open design and yet they have redone buildings that had open space designs. One Committee member spoke of getting rid of Smart Boards because of the arm that comes out from the ceiling that apparently boys like to try to do pullups on. It is hard to understand all this investment that they now seem to just blow off.
They are getting closer to starting discussions for BEX IV and what schools will be on that list.