After the school levy, money is not the issue – but construction zone issues will cause conflict

Published December 7, 2018 by justicewg

The board passed the levy on Nov 6, 2018, they have the $55 million bond they wanted to update the facilities in the schools. The issue that is important now is completing the work on the schools with the minimum possible disruption of the education of the kids who are going to be in schools just a few feet away from major construction zones, and may be required to waste time on long walks to the HS for the cafeteria and gym. That means getting the parents to agree with the construction plans, when they know their children will be negatively impacted.

I’m not seeing a lot of effort put out by the board to work with these parents. If the board takes the position that “disruption is something your will just have to deal with” and doesn’t work with parents to make the best plans for the minimum disruption, there will be some very angry parents – for good reasons.

No consensus

If the board had overwhelmingly passed the levy, they would have (poor) backing for saying “we have a mandate, now stop complaining and let us figure construction out by ourselves”. That mandate is missing.

The vote was 48% no, 52% yes. Compare that to Worthington, which passed a bond, on the same day, with a 70% yes vote. If we give Worthington’s school board a letter “A”, Grandview’s board deserves a “D”. Not only is there no consensus, the formation of three separate groups that opposed the $55 million bond were a first in Grandview, and indicate the board did a poor job in the facility planning process. Many parents felt the facility process was not fair or open enough.

Not enough board acknowledgment of community divide

No matter which side you were on, you probably had strong feelings about the issue #6 vote. The results of the election settled the question of how much money the board will have to improve the schools, what it didn’t do was heal the rift in the community.

I sent an email to all the board members, and the administration, asking them what actions the board will be taking to help mend a divided community. Except for one board member, the answer was silence.

I asked the board and administration if they understood the objections the anti-levy groups had to the facility process, because the first step in healing is understanding what the problem is. I got this answer from Mr Culp:

“You would need to reach out to the opposition groups to garner their perspectives …” – Andy Culp

This from the person who repeats the “3600 varying touchpoints” line over and over. If you have no idea what the opposition to #6 groups thought, then maybe the problem is that all those touchpoints were just you expressing your opinion Mr Culp, and you were ignoring the replies.

What happens now

We are now a month after the vote, and I’m not finding much info from the board or administration on what happens now. I read a number of “patting ourselves on the back” stories in the news, and on the school website, but the specifics are lacking. I see nothing about groups or meetings being planed to present specific actions in working on the schools, and gain feedback from the parents who will have their kid’s education disrupted by the construction. The board had months to make plans after the FAC recommendations were presented to the board, but they seemed to be focused only on the vote, not on anything they needed to do afterward.

I copied this from the school website:

Here is the general timeline for the overall project:
Phase I – The Edison Commons will be demolished, and the new 4-8 school will be built between GHHS and EI/LMS. (18-24 months)
Phase II – High School students will be moved into the newly built 4-8 and GHHS will be comprehensively renovated. (15-18 months)
Phase III – High School students will be moved back into the renovated high school. EI/LMS students will be moved into the new 4-8 building.

The annex and the existing EI/LMS will be demolished at the conclusion of Phase III.
RLS improvements (safety/security and ADA accessibility) will be completed during the summer of 2021 and 2022.

Missing from any school plans on the website – listening to parents, and working with them to build a plan that minimizes educational disruption.

The Commons destruction was not presented in any public facility meeting

There was a lot of objection to the plan to demolish the middle school commons and gym expressed by the no on #6 groups. That part on the school was the last major build, completed in 1996, and the bond is just now being paid off. If there was any part of the school facilities that deserved to be kept and integrated into the new building, that section deserved being saved. There will be millions of dollars wasted by tearing it down.

Even worse is the plans the board has presented to replace the facilities in the commons – the middle school children will be required to walk past a dangerous construction site, and use the HS facilities. This back and forth might need to happen multiple times per day – for two or more years.

When the new middle school is completed, the HS students move in to the new building while construction is happening at the HS. So the new cafeteria and gym will still be shared with the middle school for another two years.

This plan to demolish the commons was never presented in any of the plans that were presented to the facility meetings that were open to the public. It is entirely an idea that was brought up by the hand picked, closed Finance committee. And yet everything I read on the school website makes this seem like it was a result of open meetings.

We didn’t vote to destroy the commons

I checked carefully through the wording of the levy we voted for – nothing in there about tearing down the middle school commons. I looked in the material the “Yes on #6” committee sent to every home in Grandview – nothing in there about plans for work on the schools. In fact, the pamphlet that was sent out said this:

“NOTHING IS FINALIZED. There are still many steps to the process, but we do know is that the members of the FAC and the Grandview Heiths schools are working to explore every opportunity to reduce costs while while providing the needed updates …” – from the Yes on #6 committee

Given the history of the board and school administration, I think we are about to hear the words “the plan to tear down the middle school commons is a done deal, because we voted for it” – even though there is not a word about the commons in the voting language or pre-vote publicity.

This is what Culp said at facility meeting #7

We have to go back to community facility meeting #7 to hear what Mr Culp though should be done after the levy passes.

 

“Even after the bond is passed, there needs to be iterative collaborative community engagement that is transparent about the process, and community members will need a voice in and say in what ‘s being done, even then, it needs to be exceedingly transparent.” – Andy Culp, from the school video, community meeting #7.

As we know, the first part of the video, where Culp promised that the Finance committee would be open, with meeting notes, he was either lying, or was overruled by the school board. He has never explained why the FAC was closed, even when the public asked 8 times during the FAC results meeting.

We have no reason to believe the second part of this video, where Culp promised open meetings after the levy passed. When a person’s integrity has been shown to have failed, you don’t easily believe them again.

We are waiting for the board to offer the community engagement that was promised.

A request for your experiences after the school vote

Have you experienced negative comments from school administrators or staff because you were vocal in your opposition to the school levy? Were there actions taken that you feel were retaliatory because you had a no on #6 sign on your lawn? Please send me your experiences, there is a comment form in the “About” section (tab at the top of the home page header).

Email from Culp 12-21-18

We will be scheduling a community meeting in the coming weeks once we have confirmed a date.  Our goals for the meeting will be to provide attendees with an overview of the facility project and design process; the projected timeline for the construction and renovation of our schools; and to share how residents will have an opportunity to be involved in the process.

If there were any real process in motion to ask parents for their opinion and only take action after they approved, the school would not be sending an email like this. I’m not seeing the “opportunity to be involved” becoming more than an after the fact explanation of the board’s actions.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: