District Office and Remaining Buildings

This is the sixth in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. In this series, I am describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings. Today we focus on needs at the District Office, Concession Stand, Greenhouse and Press Box.

The District offices do not receive state aid in the way that our school buildings do (79.3%). Therefore, I have removed all but two (2) items from the sixteen (16) items proposed in December 2015. All that remains are the replacement of the roof and installation of heat trace tape to scupper drains, totaling $343,000.

There is work required at the Concession Stand and that remains the same as the scope brought before the public in December, totaling $15,000. We are not proposing any work at the Transportation Building, the Field House Building or the Colden Elementary Tractor Garage.

Our Pressbox needs to be replaced with a new code compliant Pressbox. And our Green House, which was to be demolished in the December 2015 project and yet provides instructional space for our FFA coursework, will need to have the hot water heating boiler replaced, an installation of a backflow preventor on incoming water service, replacement of older electrical equipment and devices and replacement of exterior doors and windows. The work on the Pressbox totals $176,000 and the Green House totals $130,000. If you’re thinking you could build a home for $176,000, please know that’s exactly what our Facilities Committee said and the plan moving forward will be to work to decrease that number to the extent possible.

This post concludes the review of the proposed scope of work in all of our school buildings. Tomorrow I will review the costs to the taxpayer as evaluated by our financial advisors.

Springville Elementary School, Capital Project Needs

This is the fifth in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. In this series, I am describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings. Today we focus on one of our elementary schools, Springville Elementary School.

The most pressing need in our district currently exists at SES and it was not in the December 2015 proposed project. The 1998 portion of our roof at SES is failing. We have brought in the architect, construction management firm, and roofing experts and all have said they have not previously seen a rooftop fail like this one. And of course, it is out of the warranty period. If we do not pass this project, we will have to find a way to pay for the repairs to this roof which total $968,000 from our local budget. That’s not a ploy to get this project passed, it’s simply the reality of a problem that we face. In the meantime, we are taking care of the rooftop with a stop gap measure and hoping for a mild winter in the 2016-17 school year.

This proposed scope also includes new items as follows: replace/enlarge unit ventilator louvers at south wing classrooms including abatement to new code requirements ($71,000) and replace piping in the south wing/modify pumps due to new code requirements ($56,000). Replacing pavement, curbing and sidewalks is again urgently needed for this school and is the most significant expense.

Removed from the December 2015 proposed project scope is the relocation of the main office area closer to the front entrance to increase security and relocate existing adjacent offices and Nurse’s office ($825,000). If you’ve been following along with this entire series of posts, you can see by now that I’m recommending the removal of all of these office relocations for security purposes. It is my opinion that the moves are hugely expensive, require building new offices when those that we have are adequate, and give us a false sense of security. There is no fail safe security measure—the best security measures we can possibly implement are those that require frequent drills so that everyone in the system knows the best way to behave in an emergency, how to think on their feet and how to follow the protocols put into place by building and district safety plans.

Also removed from the scope is the installation of new carbon dioxide detection systems ($25,000)—we did this in house in our buildings—and the replacement of the exterior wall located at the overhang. That work has to be done under an immediate emergency project and I expect the work to be completed soon.

The total bond estimate of work to be completed at Springville Elementary is $6,527,000.

We will be reviewing the proposed project in detail at our July 5 meeting, for the BOE’s consideration. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Next Up in Our Capital Project Series, Colden Elementary

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. In this series, I am describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings. Today we focus on one of our elementary schools, Colden Elementary School.

Before continuing let me first address something that’s come up from many sources, in many different ways since my arrival in March 2016. I recognize that our enrollment has been declining and we cannot continue to think of ourselves as a 2200 student district when we are in fact an 1800-1900 student district. We will likely face many difficult decisions in the following years as we consider if we should continue to operate all of our current school buildings and if we should continue to employ at our current staffing levels. The BOE will be charged with having those difficult discussions and I will do my very best to make sure that they have solid, factual information before them. We will be transparent, invite the public in for those difficult conversations and move forward with the best interest of ALL of our students and families in mind. It won’t be easy and I have no idea what the outcome will be, but I believe we need to stop taking sides on the subject and instead evaluate all of the information possible. We don’t even know yet if it will in fact save the district money as so many outside of Colden believe—or that it’s a better option than SES for our SGI children living in Colden as so many inside Colden believe–let’s figure the answers to those questions out and then have the discussion.

Having said that, we cannot afford to stop taking care of our buildings as we tackle these difficult decisions. The work that I am proposing be done in all of our buildings needs to be done to take care of what we have, for now and for any future proposed use.

The total bond estimate of work to be completed at Colden Elementary is $1,552,000. The proposed scope of work includes replacing pavement and miscellaneous sidewalks, re-roofing the original schoolhouse, replacing a kitchen exhaust hood that currently does not meet code, installing air conditioning in data closets, and replacing a hardwired Fire Alarm system with a new addressable Fire Alarm system.

A significant need that must be taken care of is the replacement of all carpeting with new vinyl flooring in the entire building including the main office area at a cost of $473,000. We have conducted two thorough air quality studies in Colden due to health concerns and complaints. While both studies, from two independent companies revealed that the air quality at CES is acceptable and is not a risk to our staff and students—we cannot ignore that this old carpeting may be contributing to the complaints.

Removed from the scope of the December 2015 proposed project at Colden includes installing new carbon dioxide detection system ($19,000), installing a new secured Vestibule to increase security to allow direct entry into Main Office Area ($120,000) and installing ventilation at kitchen, offices, special education area and miscellaneous areas ($139,000).

We will be reviewing the proposed project in detail at our July 5 meeting, for the BOE’s consideration. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Proposed Capital Project, Scope of Work for SMS

This is the third in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. In this series, I am describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings. Today we focus on our Middle School.

There are far fewer changes to the scope of work at the Springville Middle School than those described in yesterday’s post about the High School. On Tuesday, July 5 at the reorganizational meeting of the Board of Education, I will present the results of the work done with our architects, our construction management firm, SGI staff and a facilities committee including members of our community.

The BOE will consider a proposed project that includes the removal of the following SMS items from the December 2015 project that was put before the taxpayers.

  1. Install new carbon dioxide detection system. ($38,000)
  2. Relocate Main Office area closer to the front entrance to increase security and relocate existing Science classroom. ($600,000)

The only addition to the scope of work planned for SMS, our newest district building, is to replace (4) standard drinking fountains with new ADA drinking fountains at a bond estimate cost of $28,000.

Community members may recall that the most significant work at SMS includes replacing pavement, sidewalks, curbing—which we sorely need. Our buildings and grounds department has done an excellent job of patching and making due, but our pavement, sidewalks and curbing are in dire need of replacement. Also significant are the replacement of the entire roof including roof drains and replacing (14) roof top Multizone heating and ventilation units. It was thought in the last project that we could make due with repair of these units in preparation for a capital project down the line but our new projected construction date will indicate these units are at the end of their useful life and replacement cannot be put off for a future phase of construction.

The total bond estimate of work to be completed at SMS is $9,517,000. Again I will be reviewing the proposed project in detail at our July 5 meeting, for the BOE’s consideration. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Springville High School, Proposal for the BOE’s Consideration

This is the second in a series of posts about the capital project needs of the Springville school district. I will be describing the proposed scope of work in each of our buildings, today is focused on the High School.

The big question first, what was removed from the scope of work proposed to the voters in December 2015 for SHS?

1. Install new Addition which includes a new gymnasium, bleachers, Boy’s and Girl’s locker rooms, Fitness room, public toilet rooms, renovations of existing shop area to allow access to the new addition and renovate existing Fitness room into new Ag. Shop classroom. New indoor track located at ground level around Basketball court. ($11,000,000)

2. Renovate existing Gymnasium for new Media Center. ($1,700,000)

3. Renovate existing Media Center for new Board room and Multi-purpose room. ($750,000)

4. Upgrade electrical service (required for new gym addition OR Air conditioning of all classrooms) ($340,000)

5. Install new carbon dioxide detection system. ($32,000)

6. Install backflow preventor at Ice machine. ($2,000)

7. Install vacuum breaker at 2 mop sinks. ($2,000)

8. Install trap wrapping at all ADA sinks. ($2,000)

9. Replace Athletic field lighting system. ($630,000)

The remainder of the scope is much the same as it was in December 2015, with a few additions bringing the total proposed bond estimate to $8,631,000 for SHS.

Bond estimates include the cost of the work and the incidental (soft) costs–architect, construction management, legal and financial consultant fees, furniture, fixture, equipment and site costs. The bond estimate also includes contingent fees to cover the possibility that costs may go up by the time we go to bid. Whatever amount is approved by the public for this project is the maximum we will be permitted to spend.

Second, what was added that voters did NOT see in the December 2015 project as presented to the voters?

As we will continue to use our current gym, we need to refinish the wood floors at an estimated bond cost of $71,000 and renovate the athletic locker rooms in the basement which is estimated at $318,000. Because we will continue to occupy the spaces in the basement for locker rooms, we are required to install a new ADA elevator to the basement at a cost of $424,000. This is a most aggravating required expense and I have argued several points about this that our architects are discussing with NYSED so there is a remote chance, fingers crossed, that this may be an expense we can eliminate.

And the last addition from the December 2015 proposed project is to the track. While that December project did include removing the rubber track surface, installing new pavement and a urethane track surface, it didn’t include the expansion of our 6 lane track to an 8 lane track; removing and replacing existing perimeter fencing. Our track program has grown every year with a large number of our students participating. Because we’re replacing the track, if we’re ever going to widen it to 8 lanes, now is the time–at a bond estimate of $332,000.

This series of posts will continue all week leading up to the presentation to the SGI BOE for their consideration on Tuesday, July 5 in the HS Media Center at 7:00. Please contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback. Thank you.

Capital Project Planning

In December 2015, the Springville-Griffith community voted down a proposed capital project 81% to 19%. At that time the SGI BOE Members wisely conducted a survey of our voters to gather feedback.

One of the goals set forth for me upon entering the superintendency at SGI was to study the project as it was developed along with the feedback from the survey. What we heard overwhelmingly and repeatedly is that our voters would support a project that addresses the necessities of caring for our facilities and grounds, without any controversial “extras”.

Given that there are critical needs that must be addressed soon, like the rooftop at SES, I’m prepared to present a proposed scope of project to the SGI BOE members on Tuesday, July 5, at their regular BOE meeting. This will not be a brand new project but instead takes the project developed in December and reduces it to the necessities–those items that we need to do to take of the place.

We’ll also take a look at the financial implications of the newly proposed scope–what will it cost our taxpayers?

The BOE will be asked to give feedback on the proposed project and I will hope to have a project ready for BOE approval on Monday, August 8 with a late September vote. This timeline is to keep us moving forward so that we can benefit from a favorable bid time table.

In between the July 5 and August 8 BOE meetings, I will meet with any interested school community members. I would love to hear your feedback as we develop the project for BOE approval. If interested, please join me in the HS Library on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm. Community members may also contact me via phone, I’m at 592-3230 or email at kmoritz@springvillegi.org.

Over the next week I will be writing a post for each of our school buildings in which I illustrate what’s in the project now and what we took out. There will be a few new items too–when we consider it’s likely to be 18 months to two years from BOE adoption of a project to the start of construction, we have to plan to include everything that will need to be taken care of–otherwise items like that SES rooftop have to be repaired within the regular budget without the 79.3% reimbursement from NYS we can count on within a project. And yes, I understand that the reimbursement dollars are ALSO our tax dollars but it’s much less of a financial impact to the school district than an entire rooftop covered with local taxpayer dollars.

Hope for Public Education

I’m hopeful about public education. As educators, we are a group of adults who hold our students first and foremost in our hearts and minds. We think about their stories. We worry about basic needs being met for some of them and we agonize over the decisions we see some of our older students making. We listen to them and we try to guide them.  Sometimes we just listen. We take an interest in what they think and for some, we’re the only ones who do so.  We advocate for them when they are in danger. We celebrate their many successes. We support their fundraisers and cheer them on in athletic, musical, and dramatic events. We pull for them in every competition. For some of us, we pray for them. I love them and expect the best of them, always.

While the noise continues in print and visual media, on social media, and in countless opinions espoused everywhere someone wants to air a complaint–as educators we continue to do what we’ve always done. We head to our schools with a joy about learning and a love for the children we serve.

None of the pressures from outside of our school buildings can detract from these simple facts about us. The governor doesn’t change this about us. The federal government doesn’t change that about us. The anti common core cries, the privatization of school advocates, the crazy people who don’t know US but judge us anyway, and the challenges we face together don’t change the simple facts about us.

We are and always have been well intended, caring adults who do this work because we love our students and we endeavor to make a difference in every life that we touch. When my children stand at my funeral some day, I want them to hear the stories of students I influenced, teachers who entered leadership roles and administration because of my example, and colleagues who remember me as someone who supported and respected them. I want my two kids to hear that my expectations for excellence in myself and those who work here encouraged someone to be better, work harder, go farther. I want them to hear that I made a difference in Randolph, that I improved the quality of the education our children receive through my leadership actions.

These are the reasons we are educators. None of the criticism and noise and political agendas will ever affect those reasons. They’re simply challenges for us to overcome together. I’m hopeful about public education.

FAPE. Free Appropriate Public Education for ALL students. The single greatest accomplishment of our great nation. Amidst the noise, don’t you forget it.

 

No Snow Day Here

I’ve posted about snow days before here and here and here, –it seems like every winter! In those posts I’ve explained about the multiple factors that influence my decision, thanked our incredible bus drivers and plow truck drivers, and lamented over a bad call.

We stayed open today, while many schools closed, because I can’t in good conscience close because of the hype and fervor of the newscasters. Watching Andy Parker’s (because he is good at presenting the facts without as much of the hype) forecast closely this morning, it looks like a strong possibility that the lake effect snow will miss us. As much fun as I know a snow day may be for the majority of our students and employees, I can’t cancel school without good reason. The sun is shining here on the hill right now! And yet as I write this I worry that the snow will hit us at dismissal time–that’s the nature of lake effect snow in WNY!

A couple of our students just told me that it “would be all right with us if you want to send us home early”. I wouldn’t likely ever do an unplanned early dismissal for the same reasons I don’t close school unless it looks to be absolutely necessary. Working parents, businesses who need their employees to show up, employees who don’t want to use a personal day because they don’t have child care lined up when they get a call at 6:30 am, children who would be home alone because the parent has to go to work and they have no other option—these factors all make it a very serious decision to close for the day. Early dismissal could result in little ones arriving at houses with no adult home yet. Most important to me personally? I want our students here in school, learning!

I won’t ever sacrifice the safety of our students for those reasons, but I’ll be very careful and thoughtful about any decision to close. Which brings me to another point!

We have a new door to door plan in place for those days when it’s very cold so that we don’t have to cancel like we did last year. Many students already have a bus stop directly in front of their home every day. For those students who walk the quarter mile to school or a bus stop–our drivers will stop at every house on the route when I call to say “the Cold Weather Plan” is in effect. The National Weather Service guidelines show that sustained exposure of 30 minutes at -18 to -41 is the average temperature that may result in frost bite. With door to door pick up in those temperatures, we should have no reason to close just for cold weather. If we implement the Cold Weather Plan, families will receive a phone call just like they do for a snow day.

Thanks to everyone who works hard to help us prepare and transport our students safely!

An Encouraging Leadership

In its simplest form, a leader is defined as a person who guides or directs a group.  It’s my responsibility to “guide and direct” the employees of our district, most notably the administrative team, along with everyone else who works here. Of course if all I’m ever doing is “guiding and directing”, I’m not sure that’s good enough. We need to inspire students and teachers and all employees to want to be the very best that they can be and I’ve got to get better at the positive end of the role.

The other day I saw an example of natural leadership that struck me in a way that left me thinking the entire way home from school and into the evening. One of our teachers, Caitlin, approached another, Brooke, with great excitement because she wanted to tell her colleague about some event in which she would be running. Brooke responded with positive praise (something I continue to work on remembering to give) and genuine enthusiasm for Caitlin’s efforts. The natural leadership comes into play because Caitlin wanted to share her story, she knew she would receive further encouragement, and she was proud of her accomplishment. If Brooke didn’t have credibility as a leader, friend, colleague, and RUNNER, I’m doubting that Caitlin would have bothered to tell her. I noticed all of this in the three seconds it took me to walk by the two of them.

I need to work on this–our teachers and administrators don’t come to see me to tell me about something they’ve worked hard to implement or to execute. Is it because they don’t receive appropriate encouragement and positive praise from me? Is it because they think I don’t care or that I won’t think it’s good enough?

In this new year I’m going to seek ways in which I can positively encourage our administrators and teachers.  I can be very hard on people, always pushing them to be their best. (Just ask my two kids.) But do I ENCOURAGE them to do so?

School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant?

The Brown Center on Education Policy published this report School Superintendents: Vital or Irrelevant? in September, 2014.  I read the report with great interest, largely because it’s my fervent intent to leave this world some day having made a significant difference with my life. As a school superintendent, my primary and most important responsibilities are to support and improve our educational program.

As a public school system, our central mission, or reason for being, is to educate the 953 children who reside within the Randolph Central School District. Every part of our operation from finance to cafeteria to bus drivers to support staff to teachers and administrators function because we must educate our children. That includes me.

The report looks at administrative data from the states of Florida and North Carolina for the school years 2000-01 to 2009-10. The researchers examine the following questions:

1. What are the observable characteristics
of superintendents, with a focus on their
length of service?
2. Does student achievement improve when
superintendents serve longer?
3. Do school districts improve when they hire
a new superintendent?
4. What is the contribution of superintendents
to student achievement relative to districts,
schools, and teachers?
5. Are there superintendents whose tenure
is associated with exceptional changes in
student achievement?

At Randolph, we have made tremendous gains in student achievement over the past three years. If someone asks me how we did it, I can answer that question with considerable depth. As the leader of our school district, I have a part in that growth for having worked with all constituencies to set the course, the focus, the financial priorities, and the expectations that our school community has embraced. Absolutely indisputably, I KNOW that no one within the system is more important to the growth of a child in school than the teacher who stands with him every day. I also know that a leadership team can make a considerable difference for that child through their actions and the continuous improvement that we expect of ourselves and every other member of our school community.

The authors at the Brown Center found the following:

1. School district superintendent is largely a
short-term job. The typical superintendent
has been in the job for three to four years.
2. Student achievement does not improve
with longevity of superintendent service
within their districts.
3. Hiring a new superintendent is not
associated with higher student
achievement.
4. Superintendents account for a small
fraction of a percent (0.3 percent) of
student differences in achievement. This
effect, while statistically significant, is orders
of magnitude smaller than that associated
with any other major component of the
education system, including: measured
and unmeasured student characteristics;
teachers; schools; and districts.
5. Individual superintendents who have an
exceptional impact on student achievement
cannot be reliably identified.

When I was first considering a superintendency, my mother said, “I don’t care where you go Kimberly, but pick someplace and stay there or you’ll never make the difference you want to make in the world.” She was right. Further, in this decade, on this day, in our school district, I know I’m making a difference in student achievement through my leadership, my relationships with building level administrators, teachers, students and parents. I’m making that difference not because I’m exceptional but because of the focus of my leadership. As superintendents, we have to include the central mission of our systems in our focus, goals and direct involvement in our instructional programs. Many of my colleagues are doing so every day, right here in Western New York.

I don’t dispute the author’s findings for the time period they studied. The traditional role of the superintendent is changing and no longer can the authors’ conclusion be considered  acceptable for our school systems:

Superintendents may well have impacts on factors
we have not addressed in our study, such as the
financial health of the district, parent and student
satisfaction, and how efficiently tax dollars are
spent. And to be certain, they occupy one of the
American school system’s most complex and
demanding positions. But our results make clear
that, in general, school district superintendents have
very little influence on student achievement in the
districts in which they serve. This is true in absolute
terms, with only a fraction of one percent of the
variance in student achievement accounted for by
differences among superintendents. It is also true in
relative terms, with teachers/classrooms, schools/
principals, and districts having an impact that is
orders of magnitude greater than that associated
with superintendents.

It remains our responsibility to fill all of the more traditional roles, like attending to the financial health and capital projects and bargaining agreements. It is also our most important responsibility to positively impact our instructional programs. Our public school systems are under attack from seemingly innumerable sources. Being a school leader means standing up and saying, “the quality of our education, our expectations for ourselves and our children, our ability to make a difference in the lives of the children we serve–this is our focus, our mission, and our duty.”