Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Support for BEX III

I think the district made some mistakes when they put together the list of projects for BEX III. I agree with comments by Charlie Mas, Mel Westbrook and others about some of the problems with the proposal. But, I believe we should still support passage of BEX III.

Why? I met with Fred Stephens (Director of Facilities), Don Gilmore (BEX III Manager), and Kathy Johnson (Facilities Planning Manager) last week and had my questions answered satisfactorily. I was favorably impressed with the staff, their knowledge, and their willingness to share information and background on the project.

My sense is that defeating BEX III would just delay the much needed repairs to and rennovations of many buildings around the district.


Anonymous said...

Your comments make sense intellectually. They don't make sense emotionally. I've been listening to parents talking about this very thing. Intellectualism is done. Emotionalism is in. Screaming seems to really work here. Appalling. These voters know the district has to succeed for the sake of kids and the sake of the city. They vote pro-schools all the time. But they will not be giving a dime to the district until it finishes both the closure and assignment policy issues. It's the only strong means they have to signal the district's staff and board to get their act together. These people don't scream at public meetings. Unlike a lot of other writers in this web site, they do not even have agreement with the district decisions as part of their criteria for feeling better about the district's state of affairs. They just want to watch a strong decision be made, based on a plan that an average voter can follow. When the district can do that, funding votes will come back, both at the local level and in advocacy for telling the state legislature to step up. Until then, nothing. That is quiet emotionalism, but it packs a punch as large as that guy at the meeting. Painful. Not targeted. But an attention grab.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are confusing, and I would like to understand them. Are you saying that the dstrict should make decisions just to make decisions? What happens if they are bad decisions? What about the decisions that have been made?
The district has gotten its act together, is running in the black currently and has closed 7 schools. What more, specifically, would you like to see happen?
Should the fact that a single mentally unstable man attended and disrupted a public meeting mean that all those who give feedback be labeled screaming and emotional?
Are you advocating for voting no, even though you (seem to say voting yes makes sense emotionally? Are you saying that Seattle voters dont understand the rational (intellectual) reasons to vote yes?

Anonymous said...

Beth, can you please share the district's answers to your questions?

In particular, it would be helpful to hear the rationale for the New School construction.

Beth Bakeman said...

Mary, I'll give the short version here. If people are interested, I'll do a longer post later.

1) The total dollar amount for BEX is set based on the previous levy amount plus inflation. District also works with School First to do polling around how big a levy public will support.

2) Much BTA II money is unspent because of how and when the money is collected, and the fact that it can't be spent until it is collected. The process happens over six years, and we are only in the second year.

3) The BEX III projects (according to district) align with the academic priorities because the current academic focus is high school transformation, so finishing up work on high school buildings comes first followed by work on middle schools and K-8s since that is where the academic focus shifts next.

Now as you can imagine, after that point was voiced, I certainly asked why Pathfinder, a K-8 program that has never had a decent building in 15 years and has had the middle school in portables since it became K-8, wasn't on the BEX III list, and why The New School was. We had a fairly spirited discussion of the issue. While I was not convinced it had been a good choice, I did learn the following things:

- In terms of major building infrastructure (roof, heating, plumbing, etc.) the South Shore building has the shortest expected life (o to 5 years) of any building in the district. [I also learned the Genesee Hill building has 3 to 5 years, so it's not in much better shape.] The BEX II money that was supposed to give the New School a new building was given to the South Lake High School instead. [And, on a related note, the money for the SBOC went to Garfield overruns. SBOC is not on BEX III because they were not confident it would pass and chose to create an MOU with the district that guarantees them building money from property sales.]

The current South Shore building, which with the South Lake High School gone is now plenty big for The New School student population, cannot be rebuilt because of issues with the building layout which create problems with sound and natural light.

Roy Smith said...

Beth, I would love to see the longer post about the answers to your questions.

Also, as those who are familiar with the construction industry are aware, costs for all types of construction have been rising very dramatically over the past couple of years and it is anticipated that this trend will continue for at least another year or two. One question that I am not sure has been either asked or addressed in the BEX III discussion is whether the cost estimates have adequately taken these increases into account. The answer to that should not affect the priorities (at least not very much), but it may dramatically affect just how much we can get done for our dollars.

Anonymous said...

Roy, the district is forecasting 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, 4 and 4% escalations in building costs from 2006 to 2012. Do you think this is sufficient? One thing they will be doing to help is making this a bond, which means unlike BEX II, they will be able to spend the money more quickly.

Roy Smith said...

My first impression is that those numbers may be low. I will bounce it off somebody who actually does construction management at work tomorrow and see what they think.

Anonymous said...

I,too, had a meeting with Facilities staff. I give them credit for all showing up (I had 4 people) and having answers. However, maintenance will occur through BTA. As I said previously, the sky will not fall if BEX III doesn't pass. What will happen is that the district will have to listen to the parents and taxpayers of this district. Yes, the South Shore building is bad and positioning New School there was deliberate. Lastly, I agree about the contruction costs. I have a hard time believing that Hale will only cost $77M (they have had a new performing arts hall and new football field built so maybe that's why the costs are lower).

Beth Bakeman said...

I have a vague memory of hearing that the Hale project was a limited remodel to address seismic issues, not an overhaul of the whole building. I'm not positive that's right, however.