School board OKs negotiations with MPA
- Published: July 1, 2022
At its regular meeting on Thursday, June 16, the YS Board of Education unanimously approved moving forward on negotiations with a maintenance plan advisor, or MPA.
An MPA will assess certain aspects of school facilities’ needs and make recommendations to the Facilities Committee and the district. An MPA candidate was selected from three applicants by the district’s interview committee on Thursday, June 9, in a closed meeting before the Facilities Committee’s monthly meeting.
The school board’s vote, which took place at the end of the regular meeting, followed public comments from nine villagers during the earlier community comments portion of the meeting.
Those who spoke, including Facilities Committee members Richard Zopf, Mike Slaughter, David Roche and Jerry Papania, urged the board to move ahead with an MPA.
John Hempfling, who is a YS Schools parent, pointed out that the Facilities Committee’s purpose is to create a permanent improvement plan for the district’s extant facilities in order to compare the cost and timeline of that plan with a plan for building new facilities. He added that he thought the information that the Facilities Committee has compiled so far is “insufficient for that purpose.”
“Without [an MPA], it seems like it would be difficult to develop enough information so that the community felt like renovations had really been looked into thoroughly enough to know which was preferable between doing renovations or building new,” Hempfling said.
Villager Bernadine Parks also recommended moving forward with an MPA, and said she believes the Facilities Committee is a way for the district to directly address the concerns of the contingent of villagers who voted down the levies that would have approved new facilities in 2018 and 2021.
“The community needs to know that the process that has been determined to come up with a report from the Facilities Committee has been supported by this school board so that they can make a decision based on information that they trust about how they want to vote,” Parks said.
The board’s vote was the final item on the board’s agenda before adjournment. Included in documents for the Facilities Committee report to the board, which immediately preceded the vote on the agenda, was a letter to the board from Vice President and Facilities Committee liaison Dorothée Bouquet advising that negotiations with an MPA candidate only be approved with the following caveats:
• Requiring that the candidate expand the scope of their assessment and maintenance plan to include a list of needed educational enhancements outlined by architect Mike Ruetschle at the June 9 meeting of the Facilities Committee.
• Asking the candidate to include projections on the operating costs of the facilities under renovation and after renovations.
• Asking the candidate to include the scope and costs of disruption if construction were to take place while the schools are operating.
• Asking the candidate to provide an estimated projection on the lifetime of the facilities should the district move forward with a maintenance plan.
Appended to the letter was the list of educational enhancements compiled by Ruetschle, including security vestibules through renovation or new construction; replacement, removal or repurposing of modular buildings; space for collaboration and small group meetings; expansion of kitchen and serving areas; additional bathrooms; adding air conditioning to the high school gym; and meeting storm shelter needs.
Added to the list were items not recommended by Ruetschle but identified by district staff as needs, including increased accessibility; replacing and increasing furnishings; refinishing ceilings, walls and floors; creating a district preschool program; increased energy efficiency; upgrading classroom technology; and creating a district performance space.
Ruetschle told the board that he had compiled the original list referred to in Bouquet’s letter to ensure that the Facilities Committee is “considering things beyond maintenance.” Ruetschle said he was “confident” that an MPA candidate could address the second and fourth points in Bouquet’s letter regarding cost and lifespan projections, and that a planning architect — possibly himself — could address the rest.
“I would be willing to support the other two [points] — the two around educational enhancements and swing space,” Ruetschle said.
Bouquet said she wrote the letter following the interviews with MPA candidates because she understood that a prospective MPA would only focus on “bringing the buildings to their prime.”
“I realized that there was a huge gap between that … and our needs. … If we want to move forward with an MPA, we need to make sure that we cover those other pieces,” she said.
She added that she was concerned about the cost of employing both an MPA and an architect like Ruetschle to complete the work of creating a permanent improvement plan.
“If the board is voting in favor of an MPA tonight, it’s with the understanding that we have to put even more money on the table to cover what an MPA doesn’t cover,” Bouquet said.
Board member and Facilities Committee liaison Judith Hempfling responded that the committee was aiming to keep costs around $50,000 for the work to be completed. She later clarified that the interview committee had allotted $30,000 of that projected budget to go toward an MPA; the rest would be used to hire a planning architect to work in tandem with the MPA should the board vote to move ahead.
“We agreed to negotiate a price that’s reasonable so that we could try to keep all the services somewhere around $50,000 to try to complete this,” she said. “I think that’s the decision we need to make tonight.”
Hempfling made a motion that the board approve moving forward with negotiations with an MPA candidate, but the motion was not immediately seconded.
The board continued to discuss the points outlined in Bouquet’s letter, with the discussion centering on being sure that all of the Facilities Committee’s prioritized needs be addressed.
“I think we’ll have to review the full scope of the work and the price point during negotiations to make sure we’re getting everything,” district Treasurer Jay McGrath said.
Superintendent Terri Holden clarified that the “full scope” includes what was outlined in the request for proposals for MPA candidates in addition to work that would be done in tandem with an architect.
“I just want to make sure that, when I talk to an MPA, I know what I’m asking,” Holden said.
Hempfling agreed, and suggested that the district work with Ruetschle as the planning architect.
Ruetschle replied that bringing him on board could be accomplished either by asking a contracted MPA to hire him or by the district requesting that Ruetschle provide a proposal himself, separate from the MPA. The second of these options, Ruetschle said, would likely be more cost-efficient.
“I can assure you, it would be much, much less than $50,000,” he said, adding that he believed Hempfling’s estimate of $50,000 to hire both an MPA and a planning architect would be “more than sufficient.”
With the understanding of these costs and that the items she had outlined in her letter would be addressed, Bouquet seconded Hempfling’s motion from earlier in the meeting and the board approved the motion.
Prior to Holden’s monthly report to the board at the regular meeting, part of the meeting’s agenda was set aside for community input on school safety. Though no meeting attendees spoke during that time, Holden urged community members and district parents to get in touch with the district with any concerns over safety.
She added that the district is currently in discussion with Village government and the YS Police Department on safety improvements and would keep the community apprised of what comes of those discussions.
“Please know we are actively working on improving safety here for our students, because they are our greatest priority and our greatest treasure,” Holden said.
Holden reported that, in the coming school year, the district will use FinalForms, a school-centered online platform, for all school-related paperwork.
“[Parents will] be able to complete all documents that way at the beginning of the year and not have to repeat this over and over,” she said, adding that the district will also be completing its enrollment process via the platform.
The district has also moved forward with replacing its current One Call Now communication platform with Parent Square, which district Communications Director Corina Denny reported was a possibility at the board’s regular meeting in May. Holden said it is a “much easier app” to use, and assured that there would be “a lot of communication” with district parents on how to use the new platform.
Holden reported that she and Hempfling are working to schedule “campus beautification” events at both school buildings in August, and that more details will be forthcoming.
In other school board business:
• During its legislative report, the board briefly addressed some controversial bills that have been signed or are being considered by state government.
“The Legislature has been really busy, and not in a way that is really aligning with what we’re trying to achieve in Yellow Springs,” Bouquet said.
Gov. Mike DeWine recently signed into law House Bill 99, which will allow educational staff in Ohio to be armed while on school property with the approval of a municipality’s school board. Holden assured those present that the YS School District does not allow weapons on its campuses.
Also addressed was House Bill 151, which was passed by the House and now moves to Senate for consideration. The bill, originally focused on changes to the Ohio Teacher Residency Program, gained added language in the form of the so-called “Save Women’s Sports Act.”
That language, added by state Rep. Jena Powell, would allow the reporting of girls taking part in school sports if they were or are believed to have been assigned male at birth. Further, if reported, these girls would be mandated to undergo medical procedures, including genital exams.
Also discussed was House Bill 454, which was introduced in October 2021 and, if passed, will deny gender-affirming care to minors. It will also force educators to reveal any information a student shares about questioning their gender to that student’s parents or guardians.
“This is ridiculous,” Holden said of the bills. “It’s political — this does not do anything to support children.”
House Bill 616, popularly known by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, had a first hearing in the Ohio House in May. The board passed a joint resolution opposing the bill when it was introduced in April.
• The board recognized Tina Bujenovic, who retired from her position as school nurse at the middle and high schools. Bujenovic worked as a nurse for 35 years, serving in schools for 20 of those years.
“I want to thank her publicly,” Holden said. “She truly was an asset.”
McKinney Middle School and YS High School Principal Jack Hatert said that Bujenovic will receive a plaque for her service and lauded her work with the district.
“She was a school mom for a lot of our kids,” he said.
• The board approved a new open-source English and language arts curriculum from EL Education for sixth grade; the board approved similar curricula from the same company for seventh and eighth grades last month.
• The board approved a job description and salary for a school psychologist.
• The board approved Bouquet as liaison to the Village’s Active Transportation Committee.
To view the full school board meeting online, visit youtu.be/yM8YfxETOww.