• Title: The bond passed … now what?
  • Author: Mike Conlin
  • Date: 05/05/2017
  • Additional Categories: Recent Essays, Mike Conlin

The bond passed … now what?

The bond passed … now what?

It is now imperative that ELPS take actions to ensure the kids get the highest return possible from the capital investment. Because many of the details of implementing the bond are still to be determined, the school board has the ability to move forward in rebuilding the schools to facilitate small class sizes and maximum teacher/staff resources. In order to obtain the highest return possible, by maximizing classroom resources and spending efficiently, here are actions that ELPS should take.

Use a competitive bidding process to determine the bond underwriter. My understanding is that ELPS, as they did in 2012, has chosen Stifel, Nicolaus & Company as the bond underwriter without a competitive bidding process. The former superintendent of Haslett was/is an employee of this firm and the education administration world is small. Let’s have a competitive bidding process for the underwriter and not base the choice on prior relationships.
A competitive bidding process should also be used for the construction projects. Clark Construction should not be selected based on prior relationships with ELPS. In addition, ELPS should hire a construction consultant, without ties to Clark or any other potential contractor, to administer an open and transparent bidding process and represent ELPS’s interests.
The concrete plans for the 5 new elementary schools must be developed by objective experts in educational building, construction managers, and school finance. Politicians Schertzing and Meadows have suggested that we allow community input into the school designs and have members of the bond committee be involved in the process. Both of these suggestions are ludicrous. To spend $93.7 Million, we need experts to quantify the tradeoffs, both in terms of construction and operating costs, associated with different construction alternatives that meet the educational needs of ELPS students. It is important that if the experts propose reducing the sizes of the schools, we abide by point 2 above so that the construction firms do not just increase their profit margins by pocketing the costs savings.

ELPS should provide Steven Haider with the data necessary to estimate/forecast student enrollment by grade by school for the entire district. The numbers/analysis presented by bond proponents during the bond campaign were naïve, often failing to recognize the complex variation in grade level sizes across grades, schools and years. It is imperative that an expert (working pro-bono) does this analysis to increase the probability that 6 elementary schools are viable in the long run.

A long-run, financially viable plan for the non-elementary educational programming in Red Cedar must be established before the $10 million is invested because the type of renovations will clearly depend on the programming. It is not viable for ELPS to manage/operate even a moderately sized Pre-K or childcare program in Red Cedar; irrespective of whether the program is fee-based or a collaboration with MSU, Ingham ISD, Head Start or Great Start. If the current discussion about collaborative programming with MSU is implemented, it is imperative that MSU operates the program and pays the market rate for the space and that MSU’s College of Education pays ELPS for the training and research opportunities for their students and faculty. ELPS taxpayers should not subsidize the childcare/Pre-K programming for MSU faculty, administrators and staff nor subsidize the training/research costs for MSU’s College of Education.

Many people/taxpayers are not going to like this, especially after a $93 million construction bond was just passed, but ELPS should put a recreational millage on the November 2017 ballot. This millage will augment the general fund and allow ELPS to hire more teachers, parapros and specialists. (See HERE , which I wrote years ago when $8.2 million was being spent on the atrium at Macdonald, for details of how rec millage can allow ELPS to hire more labor.) It is important that these additional funds be used for hiring more teachers, parapros and specialists because even a well implemented construction plan will be disruptive to the kids’ learning environments and additional labor resources will be needed to address these disruptions. (It is important that these funds be used for this type of labor and not to pay additional consulting fees to MSU’s College of Education faculty or additional legal fees to Thrun Law firm.) I expect the returns on this additional labor will be much higher than the returns on the construction bond.

I provided more details on all of these points in prior Public Response READ ALL PIECES HERE and have posted them at MIKE Conlin Website .

Mike Conlin

[The information in this post is based on my research and represent my views. They do not necessarily represent the views of MSU.]
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May 05, 2017