Serving in a public position always invites criticism. While Theodore Roosevelt famously wrote that “it is not the critic who counts,” a wise friend also counseled me to always find the grain of truth in every criticism. And so, as the superintendent of District 93, the buck stops with me.
Despite commentary on social media, public organizations are rarely made of people with nefarious purposes. In my experience, they are almost always made of good people who devote their time and talents to make our communities better. This is certainly true of the elected school board members in District 93. Like other board members throughout Idaho, they selflessly devote countless hours without a dime in compensation. But, too often, their credibility and integrity are attacked when people don’t agree with their decisions.
In her Feb. 28 letter, Mrs. Halli Stone shared criticism that I would like to address. First, we are working hard to break ground on the new middle school as soon as possible, but the process of creating engineered blueprints ready for approval by the Division of Building Safety and bidding by contractors takes months.
Unsurprisingly, architects and engineers need to to be paid for the thousands of man-hours devoted to creating these plans. The cost for this design work is paid from bond funds, which results in an inevitable delay between passing bonds and breaking ground.
Mrs. Stone correctly stated that with Thunder Ridge now open, our high schools are currently only about 80 percent full. Anyone who visits Hillcrest and Bonneville will immediately notice the difference from last year when we had almost 400 more students enrolled than the schools were designed for. Now is the ideal time to begin building additional classrooms so that these schools can safely grow to 1600 students.
Thunder Ridge has 80 classrooms. Adding this much capacity to Hillcrest and Bonneville would have required additions of 40 classrooms each, which, as we stated before and still believe today, would be impractical and unsafe. Our proposed redesign would only add eight more classrooms at each school and improve the flow of students to decrease congestion and increase safety.
Third, our projects are, in fact, put out for sealed bids. With both Black Canyon and Thunder Ridge, the only items not awarded through sealed bids were the selection of architects, engineers, the owner’s representative and the general contractor. Their work was awarded by evaluating qualifications and negotiating fees for services. Not only does this process follow state statute, I believe it also allows for greater transparency and helps to ensure higher quality construction.
Absolutely, our patrons deserve accountability, honesty and transparency. To that end, we sent our 12-year facilities plan home to parents with key facts about school capacities, enrollment, and building needs. We will happily send this document to anyone who requests it.
As the superintendent, my most important responsibilities are ensuring that our students are safe, that teachers design and deliver high-quality learning, and that we are wise stewards of public funds. Our parents and patrons should know that they will have nothing less than my best in meeting those responsibilities.