COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE
Toledo Public Schools Building Program
April 20, 2005
Present: Bill Babcock, Jeanne Emch, Darlene Fisher, Richard Hodges, John Martin, Doni Miller, Steven Ramirez, Kevin Smith, Kenny Terry, and Ford Weber.
Excused: James Cobham, Jodi Gross, Bonita Johnson and Rev. David Morris.
Also attending: Dan Burns, Gary Sautter, Dr. Eugene Sanders and Sarah Foley (recording secretary).
Presiding Chair Ms. Emch called the meeting to order at noon. Because the last meeting consisted of a tour of Ottawa River School, there were no minutes from the March meeting.Ms. Emch stated that she believed that the committee meetings should be rescheduled to an every other month basis and on an as-needed basis if any issues arise. The subcommittees will continue to meet as scheduled. She also welcomed the members of the historical subcommittee to join an additional subcommittee if they so choose.
Ms. Fisher stated that she has concerns that meeting every other month would make it difficult to keep the public informed.
Ms. Emch stated that most of the committee’s members are out in the community talking to the public. She has also noticed waning attendance in the last few months and felt this lack of attendance now that the building project is well underway.
Ms. Fisher asked if anyone could call a special meeting if they felt there were issues to discuss in between the every other month schedule.
Ms. Emch stated that they would have additional meetings if committee members felt there were issues that needed to be addressed. She also mentioned that the committee publishes quarterly reports to the public.
Ms. Fisher stated that the committee needs to report more to the community. She also asked how the quarterly reports were disseminated.
Ms. Emch stated that so little changes from month to month now that the project is underway. It seems repetitive to have monthly meetings, however if anything at all comes up they will call an additional meeting. The quarterly reports are usually presented at the Board Meeting and at press conferences.
Ms. Miller stated that she felt that the historical committee has been very active and diligent, especially Steven Ramirez. The committee will continue to be responsive as the need arises. Ms. Miller stated that she is on the MBE committee and they meet on a quarterly basis. They also report the committee’s findings at press conferences and the board retreat. She believes that the information does get out into the community.
Ms. Fisher asked Mr. Ramirez if he was comfortable with the idea of the historical committee being disbanded.
Ms. Emch stated that the historical committee is not being disbanded; they are simply invited to join an additional subcommittee if they so choose.
Ms. Fisher stated that she felt that having the meetings on an every other month basis gives the public the wrong impression. It looks as though the committee does not have anything new to report.
Ms. Miller stated that she disagrees and believes the public is not as misinformed as Ms. Fisher thinks. Ms. Miller added that what she thinks Ms. Emch is saying is that when nothing new is happening it is wasteful of the committee’s time. She is certain that the committee will continue to meet when there is a need. They will continue to keep the public informed.
The public attendees at the meeting voiced concern that the committee is not meeting the promises they have made and some attendees stated that they are disappointed in the committee’s results.
Ms. Fisher stated that this is why we need to have a meeting on a monthly basis.
Mr. Hodges stated that committee members spend a great deal of time on detail work. The members are out in the community and a lot of time in the community, talking to the public. He believes that they will be serving the community better if they have more time to spend out in the community. Mr. Hodges stated that all of the members have busy lives and jobs and this would allow them to spend more time on the detail work with the community.
Ms. Emch stated that she can assure the public that the committee members will continue to get the job done.
Ms. Fisher stated that she believes that the schedule of the subcommittee meetings needs to be published so that the public can attend.
Ms. Miller agreed with Ms. Fisher. The meeting should be posted on the website and reminded the committee that all meetings are open to the public unless they are discussing personnel.
Ms. Miller stated that she is a member of the MBE subcommittee. Her committee is focused on monitoring minority and female inclusion. The members of the subcommittee have taken extensive training on the inclusion policy and the legality of the policy. The committee meets on a quarterly basis and reports and makes recommendations. The subcommittee reports to the Superintendent and the Board. The attendance is exceptional and the subcommittee members take the job very seriously.
Ms. Miller reminded the committee that they did not have a press conference for the second report, however it was released to the public in writing. Ms. Miller is encouraged by the numbers. They increased from 6% to 6.3 %. The DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) participation has increased from 7% to 7.5%. $3.7 Million has been earned by the DBE, which would not have happened without the inclusion process. The data is verifiable and the committee is happy that the numbers are moving forward. However, some contractors are having difficulty complying. The subcommittee has recommended that as the second segment begins contractors should understand what is expected of them. The committee is recommending that the district should consider publicly identifying those who are noncompliant. Ms. Miller added that some of the smaller minority contractors do not have the funds and staffing to take on jobs like the building project, so the district works hard to ensure that they are receiving smaller jobs.
Mr. Weber asked if there was any work force demographic data available for this area.
Ms. Miller stated that she does not have it in the monitor’s data, however she can make that available. Ms. Fisher asked how long the contracts are set up for. Ms. Miller said that they are for $70,000 and 12 months. Mr. Ramirez asked if the district had the option to cancel a contract if they are not meeting the MBE standards. Mr. Burns stated that the contractors must demonstrate a good faith effort to meet the standards. The results are notarized and if the contractor is lying about those efforts the contract will be terminated. Mr. Ramirez asked what happens to contractors who never meet the goals of the MBE plan.
Mr. Smith reported on the Segment One changes. He stated that Libbey is delayed a month, Leverette is on a two month delay. Start is waiting on approval to begin and at Robinson should get started soon. Start Middle school is on a ten-day delay. The subcommittee will begin monitoring Segment Two this month. Ms. Fisher asked if the scheduling subcommittee could post when they meet on the website.
Mr. Smith said that they meet monthly and that schedule is up on the website. He stated that occasionally if there are only small changes to the schedule they discuss those changes over the phone.
Ms. Emch handed out the financial report. She stated the numbers for Segment One have improved considerably. The subcommittee goes through every penny spent, but will only hand out the summary. The subcommittee is happy to report that they are $600-800 thousand under budget. This report does not include the soft costs, like finishing costs. The Finance committee meets once a month.
Mr. Weber asked if there is money in the budget to put bleachers in Ottawa River. Mr. Burns stated there would be bleachers in the school; they just aren’t in place yet because the floors are not finished. The school wanted bleachers and a portable stage and they were able to get them.
Ms. Fisher asked if the financial subcommittee agreed with the conclusion that the district made to put a levy on the ballot. Mr. Smith stated that the money on the levy in May isn’t for Segments One and Two.
Mr. Hodges stated that it is not the role of the committee to make levy decisions. The purpose of the committee is to oversee the building project and ensure that TPS is keeping its promises to the public.
Ms. Emch said that the issue of levies is not the function of the committee. However, personally she feels that the district needs this money. The financial committee did not discuss this levy.
Mr. Ramirez stated the historical committee has been attending community meetings and plan on attending the Chase and Navarre meetings. He feels that now that they are working on older schools it will be more of a challenge to design. Mr. Ramirez stated that the architects have been doing a great job. Ms. Fisher asked Mr. Ramirez if he was concerned about saving the bricks from the old schools. Mr. Ramirez stated that they have taken care of it and are already saving bricks to be used at Navarre.
Dr. Sanders thanked the committee for the hard work that they do. He announced that the first lady of Ohio recently visited Cherry Elementary and students were able to meet Mrs. Taft. Dr. Sanders wanted to remind the committee that the number one objective for any school is academic improvement and the work they do will have a direct and positive impact. He believes that the TPS students deserve nice schools. Dr. Sanders stated that he would have loved to have the opportunity to attend a school like Ottawa River.
However, the governor has made a proposal, which has been forwarded to the senate that would have a direct negative impact on the public schools. Dr. Sanders encouraged the community to talk to their state legislatures. At TPS 60% of the budget is from state funds. Dr. Sanders stated that the Issue 4 on the ballot on May 3 is to replace a levy that is from 1985, which simply isn’t enough money by today’s standards. This levy will maintain existing buildings at an appropriate level while we are in the process of building new.
Ms. Fisher asked how the district is looking at the number of schools they will replace given the State activities. Dr. Sanders stated that the Board is currently looking at all of the factors that affect the numbers. The OSFC constantly reviews enrollment and difficult decisions must be made. The district will do its best for fair and equitable decisions. The state budget will have an impact on those decisions.
Ms. Fisher stated that at some point we must close schools because we don’t have the enrollment numbers to sustain 69 schools. She also voiced the opinion that the board has been disrespectful to the public and she has real concerns about the project. Ms. Emch stated that she would be happy to discuss those concerns with Ms. Fisher after the meeting. She stated that in order to accomplish what they need to accomplish in the meeting they must stay on track and organized.
Ms. Fisher asked about the quality of the contractors. She pointed out that in other areas there were issues with the quality of work that the contractors were doing.
Mr. Smith stated that quality is not an issue. The contractors that the district is using are local contractors. They are the best in the area and have been around for years. There will be quality schools because they have quality workers and superintendents that inspect the job site daily and report back weekly.
Mr. Burns stated that even though there had been a lot of discussion about Ottawa River there were many other schools that were underway. Waite and Oakdale are looking good, Rogers is moving along and there will be a groundbreaking for Robinson this weekend.
Ms. Emch thanked everyone for attending and reminded everyone that the next meeting will be June 15.
The meeting adjourned at 1:35 p.m.