District 38’s Dec. 18 school board meeting went long. Following the failed bond measure voters recently rejected, money to build or expand schools to address overcrowding needs and growth in the Monument area was a main topic.
Although it started at 6 p.m., the meeting was still going strong two-and-a-half hours later at 8:30 when discussion got around to “Bond Next Steps.” Still to go on the agenda was “Bond recommendation from audit committee,” and “Next steps for addressing near-term growth needs.” Also listed were items to “Consider/approve budget adjustments” and to conduct a superintendent search.
The meeting began with members of the Palmer Ridge High football team receiving athletic recognition. Wade Baxter, coach of the Lewis-Palmer High girls’ volleyball team, was also present to accept recognition for the team’s eighth state win.
Next were presentations by two students on how project-based learning (PBL) positively affected their lives. Denzel Delmastro said the integrative multi-sensory approach communicates “the same information but the way you learn it, it stays in your brain better.” Delmastro teared up when sharing how the PBL experience with his teacher, Ellie Rank, “has positively affected my grades, how I get along at school and my relationship with teachers.”
During public comments, James Howald countered a recent opinion column in The Gazette by Scott R. Saunders, saying that it used “creative accounting.” Howald asserted that along with its independent governance, Monument Academy should carry its own responsibility for “financing to realize their plans.”
His comments reflected recent budget tension in the district in relation to the MA charter school.
Board member Chris Taylor said in his comments that he wanted “greater unity of purpose” for the good of the school system and wished for all to “disagree but not be disagreeable.” He expressed regret that recent “insinuations of backroom deals” made it hard to have unity.
The district in the past two weeks used ThoughtExchange, an online dialogue tool, to engage in discussion with community members.
ThoughtExchange defines itself as a “two-way engagement platform (that) empowers leaders in the most innovative organizations to build trust, make better decisions and humanize the communication experience.”
Several board members thanked outgoing superintendent Karen Brofft for implementing the recently launched program.
Nine-hundred-thirty-six participants were logged, and 1,551 thoughts shared during the exchange.
The level of activity caused the platform’s moderator to comment, “I love the passion in your community.”
Brofft, in her superintendent’s update, said “ballot language” was a top theme during the exchange. People shared what they thought regarding the bond that didn’t pass, and why.
“Voters wanted to know specifics of where money will go,” Brofft summarized.
During the “Bond next steps” agenda item, the board began discussing various issues related to building with Brian Risley, principal architect with CRP, and Mike Hester, senior project manager with GH Phipps.
Tiffiney Upchurch asked about the term “facility condition index (FCI).”
Risley answered that FCI analysis takes into account whether it would be better to “band-aid” an old school for half the cost of a newer one; that would have, as Brofft pointed out, a larger capacity plus “meet today’s instructional needs.”
Maintenance costs were also discussed, in terms of trying to strip down building plans and make them cheaper. Risley mentioned sometimes making a lower-quality building means higher maintenance and repair expenses later.
Upchurch asked about using reserves to pay for some building costs, and discussion ensued. Brofft responded about the subsequent need to change board policy for that to be done, and two board members voiced reluctance to proceed in that direction as reserves were used to meet payroll during the 2008 recession.
Brofft expressed marked concern about a possible 3 percent “owner’s contingency” for financing a new school as being quite risky, versus the usual amount, which is closer to 5 percent.
Taylor pointed out that the district has not lost money on the architectural designs they’ve already paid for, as the plans will not expire or become obsolete.
Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Wangeman mentioned increasing communication about how things work with stakeholders regarding how state requirements vary widely in relation to “developers should help pay” for schools comments from the community.