Sunday, October 05, 2008

Reminder about BTA Community Meetings

UPDATE 10/6/08 -
Here is a link to the Powerpoint that will be given at each community meeting.

Just a reminder that this week are the district-sponsored meetings on the BTA levy (Buildings, Technology and Academics) that is coming up for a vote in Feb. 2010. True to form, these meetings are all in one week. (It is a never-ending mystery to me why all these meetings have to be the same week. I realize staff doesn't like having to work into the evening but it's also the nature of the job they have.) I'm going to the Broadview-Thompson meeting.

When: October 6,8,0 and 10th from 6:30 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.

Where: Monday the 6th at Broadview-Thompson in the library
Wednesday the 8th at Meany Middle in the library
Thursday the 8th in Mercer Middle School
Friday the 10th at West Seattle High in the library

From the district website:

"SPS is in the process of identifying capital needs and developing alternatives for the BTA III levy that will go before the voters in Feb. 2010. This will be the first opportunity to provide input on what projects should be included as part of the levy process, the potential amount the levy should be, and what percentage should be spent on building renovations, technology and academics."

BTA 1 ran the gamut of projects with much PBX and other technology updates district-wide as well as several reroofings. There were at least 200 projects done at 60 schools. BTA II had "student workstations" as a label for many projects (but I'm not sure what it means). As well there were "mechanical systems" and library updates done at several schools. What is troubling about the BTA II list is very little work was done for life safety systems. I know that there are several schools that need some seismic work done.

Also, because of the problems of lack of long-term vision and planning, BTA II had a couple of items that, now, look like money wasted. For example, from the voter flyer;

"Orca School Science Facilities. Build new science annex and greenhouse to support conversion of the current K-5 program into a K-8 school - $2.25 million".

This happened at when Orca was at Columbia but now they are at Whitworth. (It could be a small price to pay to NOT have to redo Columbia but it was still over $2M of work that is now sitting there.)

Another example was this: "Montlake Elementary. Replace old portables at Montlake to provide a safe and healthy environment for teaching and learning - $500,000."

Yes, this needed to be done but the problem is the whole building needs to be renovated and the district just can't figure out what to do. To rebuild Montlake means it would stay nearly the same size it is now which is about 266. The cost per student to rebuild a small school is prohibitive (its lot size doesn't allow a bigger building if it were rebuilt). I think the district would like to close Montlake but I can tell you from experience there is tremendous pushback from the community. But you can see the problem of trying to keep pace with a building that is getting worse.

BTA II was for $178M; here's a link to the voter brochure.

Here are two Big Picture problems.

One, we are $400M behind in maintenance (and that's not including schools that need a total renovation). There are several reasons why but one key one is that the amount given for maintenance from the General Fund changed a decade or so ago (from 2% to 1%) and the district has fallen further and further behind. Indeed, the State Auditor's report points this out as a major problem for the district. So the district is almost treading water just to stay ahead.

Two, the district has a delicate job in needing to ask for money because they will look greedy if they ask for too much (even though, yes, they need it) and not asking enough and continuing to fall behind in maintenance. However, the district has angered and alienated a number of voters on several capital issues in the recent past. This is a levy (and not a bond) so it only needs a simple majority to pass. However, the number of voters turning out has gotten lower so every vote counts (especially in an off-month election). As well, our economy has headed south so voters, by Feb. 2010, may be in no mood to give away money.

I need to check and see if the agenda item at the last Board meeting for between $600,000-700,000 for a consultant to go over schools conditions again did pass. This is a puzzling request to me because a company called Meng just did a very thorough analysis during 2005-2006. It's hard to believe in 2-4 years that work has to be redone again.

Personally, I think staff knows very well what needs to get done and I'm not sure how much traction either parents or school staff will have in giving input to the district. (It mentions in the BTA II overview that a survey was done of school staffs but I don't know if they are doing that this time.) However, the squeaky wheel does get the grease so I wouldn't be surprised if lots of phone calls and e-mails from a school to a Board member whose region includes that school might not get a little push.

Is there something at your school that you think needs to get done?


reader said...

The whole NE capacity issue has robbed the district of its credibility. Just a few years ago, the district tried to close Sacajawea... and did close Viewlands (at what giant cost??? you hear different reports). And then, we have heard that, no, it didn't really save anything from the closures, with the costs of the move and the costs preparing the new spaces etc. NOW, we're hearing that in the same location where they tried to close schools, they got it all wrong. They actually need NEW schools there. Go figure! What a bunch of losers! No they won't be able to issue bonds (especially now). The PUD isn't even able to issue bonds now. We need water and garbage service a whole lot more than another game of student musical chairs. And they certainly can't get more levy money either. Nor should they.

Charlie Mas said...

BTA II also paid millions for the tennis courts and softball field at Chief Sealth High School as well as roof, exteriors, mechanical systems, floors, windows, a library and a student commons there. All of that work will be demolished with the BEX III work they are doing, building New Denny on top of the tennis courts and the softball field. The Board acutally signed off on the completion of this work at the meeting just months before the meeting at which they approved demolishing it.

Who is planning this work? Anyone?

Charlie Mas said...

Is it just me, or is most of that powerpoint not about planning for the upcoming levy. Most of it is promotional material about the strategic plan and then a bunch of historical information about past levies that is of questionable relevence. Do we really need six slides filled with the names of schools that had BTA or BEX projects in the past?

Also, why are the public nominations due December 1 if the consultant isn't going to complete their evaluations until Febraury - over two months later - and they will be evaluated at the same time by the same criteria? And hey, when is the deadline for the staff nominations? Is it also December 1?