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Back to paper ballots for city/school election

by Kevin Hamilton
The Iowa Park CISD Board of Trustees moved quickly through a host of agenda items during their regular scheduled meeting Monday at the IPCISD Administration Building, including approval of a resolution for the use of paper ballots in the May 12 and future elections, and approval of a resolution joining over 300 school districts in the state with concerns for high stakes, standardized testing of Texas public school students.

In addition, trustees met with Jackie Lebow, Jr., AIA of Secord and Lebow Architects to discuss construction delivery method for the proposed facility upgrades, continued the district’s annual audit engagement with Edgin, Parkman, Fleming and Fleming, PC, approved the rehire of paraprofessional personnel for the 2012-13 school year, and accepted the resignation of IPHS math teacher Jennifer Hicks.

Jonathan Clubb, Iowa Park Tax Assessor/Collector, reminded the board that the Texas redistricting issue has moved the primaries to where they will start soon after the local elections are completed. “This is going to force us to go back to voting on paper ballots like we used to before we had the electronic voting machines.”

Clubb said there at least one ADA compliant, handicap-accessible Certified Voting Machine will be available at each polling location. “But, by far, the majority of our voting will be on paper this year,” he said, adding that such changes must be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice. The board approved the resolution by unanimous vote.

IPCISD Superintendent Jerry Baird informed the board the resolution concerning high stakes, standardized testing of Texas public school students was being submitted by himself, and on behalf of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA). “We’ve given the first round of the STARR test,” Baird noted of the new testing format that is phasing out the TAKS exams.

“There is still a lot of confusion out there from TEA on how to implement it,” he said, adding that board members have attended training on what the new testing system entails, including its complications.

“We want to be accredited, and we want to be challenged,” Baird said. “There is always a bar that we need to set ourselves to reach. But we feel like the current system, and the new STARR testing ... at least I feel that way right now ... there is so much indecision. We are all aware of the 15-percent rule. I believe we are testing our kids to pieces. I believe we should offer a well-rounded education.
“Kids don’t just come to school to take Algebra,” he continued. “There are a lot of youngsters whose skill set maybe leans towards a vocational setting ... not every student is going to be college-bound. But this testing system implies that of all of our students.

While noting “we want to be held accountable,” Baird said that he witnessed stress among teachers and students during the recent testing. “We have a great group of teachers, but I think it inhibits them or places them in a corner their ability to teach,” he said.

For those students not interested in attending college upon high school graduation, Baird said “I think we should help them find training, and let he or she attend a two-year community college to receive proper training. But, if he or she can’t make that 15-percent rule, or stumps their toe on an end-of-course tests, they don’t graduate from high school.”

The resolution, he said “... is our plea to the the leadership of the State of Texas, and it asks for us to just hit the pause button ... back off a little bit and look at this thing and talk about it. And then, if we want an accountability system, let’s put something together that our kids can learn and our teachers can teach.”

The resolution (which you can find in it’s entirety on the Leader’s editorial page) was passed by unanimous vote.

Lebow met with trustees to discuss options for managing the construction of the proposed facility upgrades if approved by the district voters. The architect said there were two options to consider. The first is a standard design and build method, where the designers put the plans and specs out for contractors to bid.

“It is purely a price bid,” he said, noting that it is standard method, and utilized by such entities as TxDot.

The second method, said Lebow, and used more recently by schools, is the “construction manager at-risk (CMAR) method.”

With this method, contractors are solicited to be the CMAR in two ways - a one-step process where information is requested by contractors and then a selection made. The second method, which Lebow encouraged trustees to approve, is a two-step method where initial request for qualification goes out, a selection committee narrows the field down to four or no more than five, then in a second process interview the CMAR prospects. “The district then can make the selection based on the criteria we have established,” he said.

“The advantages are, that with the CMAR on board, they can work with the design team early on in the project, and help stay within the budget,” continued Lebow. At some point, the CMAR will provide a guaranteed maximum, even prior to obtaining bids from subcontractors. “His guaranteed maximum price means his price will not exceed that,” noted Lebow. “Once all the bids are in, we’ll have a more defined price, but you are guaranteed that it won’t exceed that. But, if comes in under that, then that is savings to the district. It allows us the flexibility to negotiate along the way with the contractor and keep in mind that we are trying to stay within the range of what we set out to do. You don’t have that luxury with a traditional design and build.”

Trustees agreed to go with the CMAR two-step process for delivery of construction. Lebow said the template for rating the prospective CMARs will include their history with school districts and type of work they have done, the number of prospects done for schools and references, their total bonding capacity, qualifications of staff, safety ratings, accident records, etc. In the second phase, Lebow said the questions to the finalists will be more project-specific.

In other business Monday night before the board,
• Approval was given for use of facilities for summer camps including girls volleyball camp June 4-7, boys basketball camp June 8-9, and girls basketball camp June 18-21; and,
• Verbal approval was given for W.F. George Middle School Principal Darla Biddy to move forward with a summer “Safe Sitter” iniative.