COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE
Toledo Public Schools Building Program
June 15, 2005
Present: Bill Babcock, James Cobham, Jeanne Emch, Darlene Fisher, Richard Hodges, Bonita Johnson, Joyce LaVoy, John Martin, Doni Miller, Steven Ramirez, Kevin Smith, and Kenny Terry.
Excused: Jodi Gross, Rev. David Morris, and Ford Weber.
Also attending: Dan Burns, Gary Sautter, Roosevelt Gant, Bill Ramsey and Sarah Foley (recording secretary).
Presiding Chair Ms. Emch called the meeting to order at noon. The minutes from April 20, 2005 were approved. Mr. Smith was asked to give the scheduling report.
Mr. Smith stated that the scheduling committee met on June 14, so he did not have time to create a written report. He gave a summary of the latest schedule changes. He stated that the construction is going well and projects have been catching up. Start is not pinpointed on the schedule yet because they are waiting for the FEMA process to be complete. Site work will be started for Leverette in July. The Start Middle School/TTA will have a slight delay as they move students to Riverside for swing space. Segment two has some delays for initiation because of the LFI approval. They will be able to catch up once the issues are resolved.
Mr. Terry asked if Mr. Smith would post the report on the web.
Mr. Smith said it will be posted.
Mr. Burns said that FEMA would be resolved any day. Residents will also benefit from the changes on their insurance premiums – they will be going down.
Ms. Johnson asked if the insurance he was referring to was flood insurance.
Mr. Sautter said that in the process TPS worked with the City of Toledo for revisions to the zoning. The area will no longer be considered a flood plain and some residents can expect savings.
Mr. Ramsey stated that they are working on the demo work bidding. Libbey will go out to bid next week.
Ms. Fisher asked what has been decided since the Byrnedale meeting.
Mr. Burns stated that he and Mr. Sautter have been working with the City to look at traffic patterns and will go back to the planning commission July 14.
Mr. Sautter stated that they have held committee meetings in advance so that neighbors who were concerned about traffic have a chance to comment. Some community members have concerns about the height of the building and shadows as well. They will have smaller committee meetings with the community representatives and then have a larger meeting to discuss the issues.
Mr. Sautter also said that they are working with the department of safety to address the traffic flow issues. The neighbors have given TPS a list of comments and they plan on responding. He also stated that he has started to ask people where they are from at the meetings. This way they can make sure that all groups are fairly represented. They must present at open meetings for the planning commission, the zoning commission and City Council. TPS wants to make sure all needed discussions take place prior to the meetings and the public’s concerns are addressed. That way council can make effective decisions based on the logical pros and cons.
Ms. Fisher stated that she thinks it is beneficial to hold those public meetings. The residents who live there must be included and be able to voice their concerns.
Mr. Sautter stated TPS needs to get neighborhood people at the meetings early on so they can gauge their expectations and get their input. The goal is to make the school work for as many as possible, which is a challenge.
Ms. Emch stated that it is good to include public input and it is good that TPS is listening to those concerns and working together for a compromise.
Mr. Burns stated that wanted to make sure that more than just parents are attending the meetings. TPS sends home fliers with the students, but they also get fliers to the neighbors as well.
Ms. Emch stated that for the Segment One this month she was handing out the extended report. She also handed out the Segment Two. The demolition part of the project has been coming in underbudget.
Ms. Fisher asked if LFI is used for the demolition project.
Mr. Burns said the State pays for 77 percent of the demo project and we match 23 percent locally and that money when saved can be used elsewhere.
Ms. Johnson asked why some projects have nothing committed and others have nothing projected, but have money committed.
Mr. Ramsey stated that some projects, like Cherry are demo projects so nothing is committed yet. Other projects like East Toledo have money committed because of studies that are currently going on.
Ms. Johnson is concerned about the swing space choices for schools like Warren. She stated that it seems like TPS is upsetting neighborhoods, when they could just as easily keep students in swing spaces within the learning community.
Mr. Burns stated that there are two issues that the district must look at one is the budget for the district and the other is the building project.
Ms. Emch explained the financial reports only reflect current financials at the moment printed. The financial subcommittee looks at a more detailed financial report, but this is the best and most concise way to show the group.
Mr. Martin stated that Segment One is obviously much farther along. He also explained that the important figures to look at are the over/under category. Currently the project is about 4 percent over budget, but he projects that they will be able to reduce that percentage as the project proceeds. Overall, Mr. Martin thinks the project isn’t in bad shape.
Ms. Johnson asked how the new changes would be reflected on the next report.
Ms. Emch stated that it is still an accurate picture of the money that is coming in and out. They will continue to look at and track the soft costs of the project.
Ms. Johnson asked if there are buildings on the report now that will be built later on in other segments.
Mr. Babcock explains that only approved projects are included in the report. There are other ways to compare costs from segment to segment.
Mr. Sautter stated that they are working on approval for Segment Three. It will launch later this summer. Segment Four will begin early next year.
Ms. Johnson asked if any money was spent on projects that will not be built.
Mr. Ramsey stated that no money can be spent unless the buildings are approved and locked in.
Ms. Fisher asked about segment one and the Scott Middle School. She stated that there is fear in the community that segment six won’t be built. She asked if the number of buildings are reduced would the cost go down.
Mr. Burns stated that from day one the State has said they will look at enrollment halfway through the project. But they have looked at urban school districts statewide and enrollment has been declining. He is hesitant to list schools, because we are doing the assessment currently. TPS looks at births, housing starts and demos, moving patterns etc. Most likely there will be less built than originally planned, but the bottom line is TPS can’t build schools if there aren’t any students to attend. The master plan may be reduced but at this point in time all they can do is project future enrollment. Mr. Burns believes that the State should have another assessment in 2008 because once the new schools have been open; he believes that enrollment will go up.
Mr. Sautter said that the Blade article said the budget has been cut and as of yet it has not been reduced.
Ms. Johnson asked how does that justify the numbers if enrollment increases. She asked what the district would do when students come back.
Mr. Burns said the district could look at additions to the buildings that are being built now, they can also look at the overall learning community’s numbers, and it could mean that a school that is scheduled to close would not.
Mr. Sautter stated that it is a good point. TPS doesn’t want to have to put up portables. The new software that the district has looks at realistic living patterns.
Mr. Ramirez asked what happens with changes to enrollment after the entire building project is complete.
Mr. Burns stated that Mr. Ramirez has a good point; TPS did lengthen the entire building project so that they would have more time to track the enrollment figures. TPS is also pursuing raising enrollment.
Mr. Sautter pointed out that there is heavy competition for the students. There are also issues with the way students are getting to school now, more and more are dropped off in cars. People don’t want that traffic in their neighborhood, but by moving schools out of the neighborhood. Mr. Sautter is afraid the district will loose the neighborhood schools or that a charter school will close and that leaves 500 students in need of a school. The district works hard to provide warm, dry, safe schools for their students.
Ms. Johnson stated that the district should give ample time for community members to respond to public meetings and TPS issues.
Ms. Fisher added the community needs to be able to respond, especially when closing schools. Community members want a responsive district.
Mr. Burns stated that construction of Ottawa River will be complete this month. In July the furniture will be brought in. And the next meeting is in August and would be a great opportunity for the group to see a school that is complete.
Ms. Emch stated that they would try to arrange to have the next meeting at Ottawa River.
Ms. Miller asked for the group’s permission to defer the MBE subcommittee report. She stated that she would have a report before the next meeting. She wanted to first have a special subcommittee meeting to review the MBE supporting data more in-depth before sending out the report.
Mr. Ramirez gave the historical subcommittee report. He stated that the new Oakdale is nearing completion. He also reminded the committee that at the last meeting Ms. Fisher asked about the possibility of reusing the bricks. Mr. Ramirez stated that it isn’t cost effective to reuse all of the brick, but they were able to reuse the signature pieces. He also stated that in Oakdale they were able to move the memorabilia from the old school to the new school. He added that Mr. Terry is joining the historical subcommittee. Mr. Ramirez stated that the next historical meeting would probably not be until the end of August.
Ms. Emch thanked the historical committee and acknowledged that the historical subcommittee meets on as needed basis and work can be sporadic.
Mr. Ramirez stated that it is important to let the public know the changes that the district is considering and let them know why. They also need the opportunity to give input before the decisions are made.
Ms. Johnson added that people in the community are asking why the oversight committee didn’t have prior knowledge of these changes.
Ms. Emch stated that she didn’t believe it was intentional to leave the committee out, but starting now they need to be kept informed.
Mr. Cobham stated that everyone needs to remember that there is a fine line on the project. The Oversight Committee only oversees the building project and it is not the committee’s place to make other decisions.
Ms. Emch added that the decision lies with the Board of Education.
Ms. Miller stated it is the community’s perception that it is the committee’s responsibility. It would be helpful to put in place a system that says when and how the committee will be kept informed. It is important to keep the committee informed so that the members can continue the mission.
Ms. Fisher stated that she felt blindsided when the announcement was made that schools were closing. The committee needs to be kept in the loop.
Mrs. Emch stated that the co-chairs are beginning to work on a process to improve the communication between the district and the committee.
Mr. Burns said that we have had over 200 public design meetings and they will continue to try to improve and take community input seriously. He also stated that TPS tries to keep the schools consistently sized across the district.
Mr. Babcock asked if they planned on reopening Westfield as a mega school since the four closings listed in The Blade were in the south end.
Mr. Burns said no, Westfield would be in the 400 range. He added that the school district cannot bear the sole responsibility of enrollment going down. The City has a lot to do with and they need to be replacing housing as it is torn down. Two hundred and fifty houses are destroyed a year and the city is loosing population. There is a larger picture that must be looked at before the problem is solved. They start design on Westfield in the fall and he hopes that people will get excited about this school.
Mr. Cobham stated that he is tied with the CDC, which is one of the leading organizations spearheading a project to build new homes. This may impact other schools in the next 5-10 years.
Ms. Emch stated that unfortunately we will have to wait to see how things will turn out.
Mr. Babcock asked if from now on more information will be disseminated to the group.
Mr. Burns stated that if anyone at anytime has any questions, they should feel free to call him and he would be happy to answer them.
Ms. Emch stated that Mr. Martin will be the new co-chair on the finance subcommittee. She stated that the committee will set up the next meeting at Ottawa River on August 17. The committee will continue meeting every other month but if any issues come up they will hold an additional meeting. Feel free to let her know of any issues in the future.
Ms. Fisher asked if and how the committee will be adding new members.
Ms. Emch stated that they are still looking at options for the new members, which may include previous members.
The meeting adjourned at 1:15 p.m.