I want to make a statement to the community and my fellow board members about the events of the last few meetings.I apologize for not speaking up at the Jan 29th meeting to encourage an open discussion about board decisions and choices.
Volunteers worked getting the word out about what the KCK schools are doing and what we need, facility wise to carry on that work. This bond was passed by 79% of the voters in Our community.
One project was to combine and replace White Church and Bethel Elementary schools but the current sites do not support a new building. Staff needed to find a new property for this school. This information was presented during the regular monthly bond updates given during the year.
At the December 12th meeting the board was presented with a recommendation to buy 8833 Waverly for the replacement school. This site was the most suitable lot for sale in the attendance area. The board voted to approve a contract to purchase this land with all standard contingencies and due diligence to be applied by staff. The concept of due diligence includes environmental studies, local government pre-approval, and of course an appraisal of the value. This vote was 5 for YES and one abstain.
As you know on January 9th four brand new board members were sworn in.
On January 23rd staff presented the information from the studies done in due diligence on this property. (7.C under reports of the Superintendent) The land was found suitable for the needed school and the buyer had agreed to drop the asking price from 750,000 to 670,000 to match the appraisal results. After discussion about the property a motion was made to ask the seller for a 30 day extension of the contract to get another appraisal. Board members also requested two things - paper copies of the detailed due diligence reports done AND a list of appraisers to choose from for a second appraisal of value.Staff stated those items would be available for the next meeting. (My experience being present at board meetings for over 7 years as a community member and now as an elected board member is that staff willingly provide details of their work when asked).After this meeting I heard Dr. Lane ask Ms.Winn to share any specific appraisers she wished to be included on the list.
The evening of Friday, January 26th, lists of appraisers were posted to board members in the BoardDocs program. There were 17 unique appraisers from six sources (like banks).
At the Jan 29th meeting the paper copies of the original appraisal report and the Phase I Environmental Assessment were provided to all board members. The environmental study was in a 3 inch binder. The bound appraisal was over 60 pages long and contained a lot of detail to explain the valuation, including what similar properties have sold for in the area. The length of the report shows that determining the value of a commercial or school property is different than the appraisals we’re probably all more familiar with for our already-built houses.
Staff had prepared three options for the contract on this property for the Board to consider. The contract to purchase could be rejected and $25,000 in earnest money would not be returned. It could be purchased for the adjusted price of 670,000. Based on board requests on Jan 23rd there was an option to delay the contract for 30 days and obtain a second appraisal. Ms Winn shared the name of an appraiser she wanted to add to the list.The board recessed into executive session under the premise of attorney-client privilege.
When the regular session of the board resumed a motion was made to Accept the counter offer from the seller granting the 30-day extension and obtain a second appraisal. Then a separate motion was made to use the specific appraiser Ms Winn had provided just before executive session. There was no public discussion or explanation of either of these decisions or the path the board took to make them.
In the moment I did not bring up that a note had been placed in my seat while we were in Exec session. Community members had been visiting during the exec session and looking up information about this property. One person had looked for the appraisal company Ms. Winn recommend and even tried to call the phone number. This note said the number had been changed and the new number given was also not in service. This note should have prompted me to raise the question of appraiser qualifications and to pursue an open discussion of the two motions.
I apologize for not encouraging a public discussion of the board’s decision making during that meeting.
Immediately following the meeting and continuing for the past week I have been contacted by concerned community members. People are confused and worried by the lack of public discussion about the need for a second appraisal, why the appraiser added by Ms. Winn was chosen without public discussion, and what - if any- qualifications were used to decide on this.
The next morning,Jan 30th, I emailed the board clerk to make sure of the correct spelling and contact number for the appraiser. I tried the number from my cell phone and my home phone (816-444-2600). The message said the number had been changed to(816-810-9267). I dialed the second number and received the no longer in service message. I heard from several of our community members that the same thing happened to them. In fact, I tried these numbers again Feb. 1st and 4th and received the same recordings.
As a board we are seven people elected to represent the diverse needs and wishes of our entire community. We are tasked to set policy and vision and to hire a Superintendent… not to “manage” or act as administrator of the district but as a board of directors establishing policy, setting a vision and direction for our schools and monitoring the progress towards the goals we set.We are NOT professional builders AND engineers AND bond issuers OR any of the other 100’s of specialists needed for our district to succeed in preparing our children for a successful life.
It is the job of the superintendent as Chief Executive Officer of the school district to administer and manage the district. They and their staff, both USD500employees& contractors, take the policies and vision of the board and make the details happen.
It is very difficult for a project to survive being micromanaged and having things constantly seconded guessed and changed by the board. Doing so puts our relationships at risk.
Not just relationships with district staff and the contractors and builders on this bond issue. It puts the relationships we have with the residents of our community, with our business partners for school programs, and with our students and parents at risk. As we approach the retirement of the current superintendent and the task of searching for a new leader this is especially important. Building relationships takes a long time, tearing them down – very little.
This entire 235-million-dollar bond project faces tight deadlines over it’s five year draw down. First and foremost ALL OUR CHILDREN need and deserve to have access to quality 21st century facilities and our community agreed when they voted 79% YES in the election. Delaying work to second guess staff decisions leads to longer times to get our students into these modern schools.
Second, there are time lines we must meet legally to draw down and spend this money. To miss these deadlines due to micromanaging and re-doing the work of staff could result in penalties. Any money lost to delays or penalties is money our students don’t benefit from.
Everyday our district does amazing things. As I have stated many, MANY times at previous board meetings we, all 7 of us board members, need to trust that our staff (USD500 and contractors) are highly qualified employees, expert professionals in their fields, who are doing their jobs and show our confidence in them by showing them RESPECT and supporting them in the performance of their duties.We must remember OUR KIDS are why we are here and do what is in the BEST INTERESTS of our Children.
Thank you for listening,
This Blog is being generated by a group of citizens invited by USD 500 to participate as a Citizen's Advisory Committee during the Bond Issue campaign. This group continues to be involved in supporting USD 500 and watching the results from the successful Bond election. This Blog is best read from the bottom/oldest post to the to/newest post.