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Saturday, October 27, 2007

We're spending too much on fancy school buildings - Crosscut

An article in Crosscut by By Kent Kammerer says that we overpay for schools in Seattle because we buy bigger, fancier schools than we need.

3 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, there is lots I could say but I'll say most of it at Crosscuts.

Kent Krammer is a great guy who has these monthly (?) meetings where he gets someone - from government, activist, politician - to come and meet with people about issues. His accounts of the meetings are clear and very interesting.

Lakeside is not "spartan"; the campus looks like a small private college. But the point is you have schools like Northwest that are in old buildings and they do well. It's not the building that determines good academic outcomes.

Having said that, there are many issues today that school builders 50 years ago didn't have to contend with like handicapped access, need for bigger science labs (the science WASL requirement is coming fast), dedicated art rooms (which parents are overwhelmingly for), more wiring for computers and other equipment,etc.

Also, the costs of copper and steel are going up and there is competition here in the NW for these items because of the tremendous amount of construction going on from here toCanada.

But, I've looked at other districts around us and somehow their buildings come in cheaper. Are they cheaper quality buildings? I don't know. But Roosevelt, for example, in a brand-new building has had problems since day one with the heating/cooling system and will end up paying $200,000+ for a new system (not to mention the gym floor is rippling).

Roosevelt and Cleveland both have security design issues. It's hard to believe that any school building can be designed, at such high costs, without thinking of these issues.

I believe that if we ever had a full, outside audit of Facilities many unpleasant things would come out. (Nothing illegal because I believe all the Facilities staff are honest, hard-working people.) But there would likely be found a lot of undocumented shifting of money, cost overruns quietly hidden, construction problems that ended up costing the district money, etc.

I know this is not what people want to hear but you can't spend time in looking at Facilities and not realize that there is a lot that is hidden and unclear.

Charlie Mas said...

I would really like to see the District outsource Facilities work as much as possible.

First of all, that shouldn't be the District's focus, but I made a count once and 40% of Board votes were related to property management in one way or another.

Second, that's not the District's expertise. Any organization should focus on their core mission and oursource other responsibilities. For the District, the core mission is education, and they should hire experts to deal with facilities, transportation, and nutrition. The COO should supervise, but the District shouldn't be doing this work.

I have proposed that the District get the City of Seattle to take over the property management (and the associated costs).

The way it is now, the property management decisions are politically driven rather than data driven or dictated by academic needs. In addition, property maintenance is getting shortchanged because it comes out of the operating budget. Instead, as a plan, buildings are allowed to deteriorate to the point that they are unusable, then they are completely rebuilt with money from the capital budget.

Anonymous said...

Melissa said:
Having said that, there are many issues today that school builders 50 years ago didn't have to contend with like handicapped access,

Take a look at the WSHS remodel.
The designated area for working with many wheelchair bound students was so poorly designed that after the building was done. A wall had to be removed and then rebuilt to make an ill designed area better.
I believe the area is still sub-standard

Charlie Mas said:
First of all, that shouldn't be the District's focus, but I made a count once and 40% of Board votes were related to property management in one way or another.

Second, that's not the District's expertise. Any organization should focus on their core mission and oursource other responsibilities. For the District, the core mission is education,


Amen--
but doing so would reduce the size of the administrative empire.

Dan Dempsey