Archive for Monday, August 22, 2011

School board to mull call for Facilities Advisory Committee

August 22, 2011


Already faced with a list of repair, renovation and reconstruction projects expected to cost more than $10 million, members of the Lawrence school board know they’ll face difficult decisions in the months and years ahead when it comes to upgrading the district’s elementary schools.

Monday evening, they’ll discuss whether they want to bring in outside help to suggest priorities, think ahead and otherwise envision a future for major projects in a market challenged by financial limitations.

“We need community input,” said Randy Masten, a board member who wants to establish a Facilities Advisory Committee to assist board members and administrators in such deliberations. “We’re one of the most educated cities in America, and we’ve got a very willing group of citizens. It would be negligent on our part not to try to get them involved.”

Masten’s plan will be among a variety of suggestions and initiatives considered today, during the board’s annual goals setting session. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

The session is designed to allow the district’s elected leaders to establish written goals for their hired administrators to implement during the next 12 months. Such goals typically call for boosting student achievement and using resources effectively.

Capital projects typically don’t make the list, but Masten wants to change that. His reasoning: District administrators have struggled to make major upgrades to district elementary schools, with rejection of a previous bond issue and then ongoing indecision about which schools might be closed or remain open.

The needs at some schools have grown especially acute, Masten said, as the years have gone by. Kennedy School needs a new roof, for example, but the previous school board had opted not to order the overhaul because the school remains among six being studied for consolidation. Cordley School has ADA compliance issues.

The board ultimately could decide to close one or two or three schools, as recommended in February by Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force and now being studied by the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group. Or the board could keep all 14 elementaries open.

Establishing a Facilities Advisory Committee, with anywhere from seven to 10 volunteers from the business and academic communities in Lawrence, could focus on long-term needs while allowing the district’s administrators to concentrate on schools’ daily operations.

“Regardless of which way we decide to go, we’re going to have to have a bond issue — either to repair the existing facilities or create new ones, and probably a mix of the two,” Masten said. “And if we’re going to do a bond issue, we have to do it smart.”

But Mark Bradford, board president, questions whether the district needs another advisory panel, particularly one that wouldn’t have a specific, defined mission.

The task force was directed to recommend a single plan for the district’s elementary schools while mindful of tight financial resources. The working group has been instructed to provide a plan for consolidating a list of six schools into as few as three or four.

Any new advisory committee, likewise, should have a specific task assigned, Bradford said. Coming up with a plan for a bond issue, for example, should come only after the goal for the bond issue has been identified by the working group and then endorsed and approved by the board itself.

The working group’s report is due in February.

“I just don’t want to create another level of bureaucracy,” said Bradford, who approved both the task force’s recommendations and the working group’s formation.

Masten, who took office in July, envisions the committee as a way to formulate a “strategic course” for the future. While district administrators do a great job guiding the district through complex daily challenges, committee members experienced with capital needs and projects — architects, businesspeople, faculty and staff at Kansas University — could seek and identify options and alternatives that might not have been considered previously, he said.

“It’s not just for one task, but ongoing,” Masten said. “It’s for experts who have time they can dedicate, whether it’s months or years. They can help us out.”


Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

This new group might do good.

One of the most recent groups that Bradford supported was given the task to decide which schools to close. No other decision was acceptable. That task was decided before a group was formed and did leave open whether or not that type of decision was best for taxpayers or the school district.

One of the most recent groups that Bradford supported was given the task to decide which schools to close. No other decision was acceptable. It was obvious from observing this group that was a decision being forced down too many throats.

Much of our districts problems have been the result of a demolition by neglect attitude of previous administrations and BOE members. An attitude USD 497 taxpayers can never afford.

The following example represents the magnitude by which a demolition by neglect attitude impacts the taxpayers as opposed to maintaining structures as we go. In essence our initial investments go straight to hell then taxpayers are hit with a large problem that could have been prevented.

How should the school district pay for a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools?

If options are presented to USD 497 taxpayers the option of spending annual outlay funds over a 3-4 year period as opposed to a another bond issue or increasing USD 497 taxes.

In fact it would be quite thoughtful for this BOE to set in stone never again could millions upon millions upon millions of USD 497 tax dollars be spent without USD 497 taxpayer approval. I reference the reckless spending on the most recent PLAY sports project. Let the voters decide whether or not they want to be reckless.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Because nothing has changed since that poll was taken 4 years ago....

GardenMomma 6 years, 8 months ago

I think this idea has foresight for the long term rather than reactionary thought. I hope Randy Masten gets the support for this advisory committee.

buffalo63 6 years, 8 months ago

Too often, in the business settings I have been in, decisions have been made without input from all the stakeholders. While "management" makes the final decision, without input from people with useful experiences and skills, there isn't always the best outcome. To have an idea "shot down" before it is even explored, shows a real lack of leadership. I'm looking forward to the plan on how to get a "super efficient" school on the current sites, which seem too small.

GMom05 6 years, 8 months ago

Having 'input from stakeholders' is a farce. This School Board makes up committees simply to manipulate them and then hide behind the decision that was Doll's anyway. It's meaningless. I'm sorry for the schools that need repair, but I will not vote for a bond. Not when they close a school like Wakarusa that needed NO repairs. Not at the expense of more neighborhood schools. I realize certain monies come from different pots, but it all comes back to this superindent wanting to close small schools. Somehow its all tied together and always comes back to this agenda. When will people realize he is just an employee and the BOE CAN LET HIM GO?

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 8 months ago

Dare we hope? An advisory committee that will be given free reign to do its job? Is the dark age comming to an end?

Synjyn Smythe 6 years, 8 months ago

Alternatively, they could've done the wise thing and closed Cordley and Pinckney, saving $3M immediately, and avoiding having to spend $$ to address long-standing ADA issues, inability to expand issues, the mold in Cordley's sub-basement and the expense of an advisory group!! Wisdom is sorely lacking here!!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Mark Fagan:

Is the meeting at 5PM as in the LJW or 7PM per USD 497 ?

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