The 10-year facilities master plan and the Superintendent’s Listening Tour took center stage at the Hamilton County Board of Education’s Work Session on Thursday.
Rebecca Afshar, LEED AP, outlined the process for developing the Facilities Master Plan that MGT Consulting started in January. Ms. Afshar will play a dual role in Educational Space/Capacity Analysis and Facility Condition Assessment. She has experience as a teacher and an engineer, which she said gives her a unique lens through which to assess buildings. The team of seven will be visiting the school through May to gather data, conduct interviews, and assess overall Educational Suitability of all of the assets in the district.
Their reports will take into account qualitative factors and quantitative information. The engagement with people familiar with the specific uses of the spaces plus the data such as inventory and demographics will enable MGT Consulting to create a road map for the school system, she said. As an international consulting firm, they have developed software specific for this purpose. From the presentation to the board:
The firm says, "Assessing a school's condition, educational adequacy, and technology readiness are critical components of an educational facility plan. BASYS assessment software is calibrated to your district's facility standards, educational programs, and space requirements."
Ms. Afshar said ”Educational adequacy” rates how well the infrastructure connects to how it is used. As examples, she pointed out that a library would not be best positioned under a gym or that a science room might need storage for chemicals and space for an eyewash station.
The reports can be reviewed at many levels of detail. “Really we want to align all those numbers so that they, align together, to become the best environment for the students,” said Ms. Afshar. She emphasized that they would speak with “instructional leadership” to accurately gauge what would be best for the school district.
Ms. Afshar described this process as creating a “snapshot in time” that “you’re able to then evaluate everything in a very clear, organized format.” In talking about the final product, she said, “It’s more than a plan, it’s really a strategy to help with how to get your arms around this project.”
The list of examples of Master Plan Drivers included fiscal responsibility, district-wide program equity, and addressing the schools with the highest needs. On the list was expansion of pre-school opportunities. Jenny Hill, District 6, pointed out that the Hamilton County five-year plan does not include pre-school expansion and Ms. Afshar said she would remove it.
MGT Consulting expects to complete the draft plan in May when staff would review it. A presentation would be made to the Board, likely in July, followed by presentations to the community in September. As she wrapped up the presentation, Dr. Bryan Johnson said that there would be five community meetings, matching the five Learning Communities that he visited on his Listening Tour.
Dr. Johnson focused on Community Priorities in summarizing the Listening Tour. The five Learning Communities in the school district are North River, Rock Point, Missionary Ridge, Opportunity Zone, and Harrison Bay.
He was enthused about the students and parents he had met on his Listening Tour and said that the details for points made at each meeting could be found here: https://www.hcde.org/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=15412654
Dr. Johnson stressed the importance of having parents involved with the schools and said that engagement starts with budget planning. There are half a dozen meetings between now and May 9 when the Board will vote on the FY20 proposed budget. The meetings will take place at 3074 Hickory Valley Rd.
The five Community Priorities are Accelerating Student Achievement, Future Ready Students, Great Teachers and Leaders, Engaged Community, and Efficient and Effective Operations. Dr. Nakia Edwards, chief of staff, summarized elements of these categories that were highlighted by people who spoke at the meetings.
Dr. Edwards said that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) concerns were discussed with requests made for more social workers, counselors, and behavior specialists, “helping to develop them (students) in this area of non-academic learning.” More resources for students struggling with early literacy and those seeking advanced coursework opportunities were specified.
“It’s no surprise that student and school safety continue to be at top of mind, so our community wanted to make sure that we continued to prioritize that,” reported Dr. Edwards and facilities, transportation, and start times were also addressed.
With regards to teachers people stated they wanted better pay, more planning time, more professional development time, and more diversity. “Folks recognize that we have a very diverse student population and felt strongly that we ought to have a teaching population that reflects that as well.” said Dr. Edwards.
Dr. Johnson said that in the budget process they are discussing teacher compensation and staff pay including looking at the $750,000 it would cost to have “graduation coaches” full time throughout the system. He also referred to the point raised earlier about more support at schools by telling a story about his visit to North Hamilton Elementary where a social worker said that she needed clerical help. “The reality is, as a social worker, you’re spending a whole lot of time chasing down absentees…Is there a way to address truancy and take that out of your element so you can actually get into Social Work?” Karitsa Mosley-Jones, District 5, applauded.
The meeting finished with a brief discussion on the pay rate and benefits for employees based on a question posed by Mrs. Hill. Christie Jordan, chief financial officer, said some benefits are a fixed dollar amount while some are a percentage of salary. Dr. Steve Highlander, District 9, said that positions within the Sheriff’s Department, such as the School Resource Officer, had liability insurance, fees for equipment, and the legal requirement of a car on site that contributed to higher costs.