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LISD Board bristles over construction changes

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

As groundbreaking nears on the construction of an elementary school near Lytton Springs, the Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees has begun to express frustrations with the architectural and project management team.

After hearing a presentation on the conceptual design of the elementary school on Monday

evening, several Trustees expressed worries about how the project is changing and developing from week to week. In general, the concerns swirled around what project manager Jo Zunker refers to as “alternates,” options within the design and structure of the school building that could be changed or removed, as budgetary woes make changes necessary.

“What’s confusing to me is when you say ‘alternate,’ when we’ve never used that word before,” Board Vice President Brenda Spillmann said. “Who decides what we’re going to cut next?”

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Larry Ramirez said the “alternates” are features and fixtures that the District would like to include in the project if the budget allows; the final decision on those features will be made after bids on the project come back, and the numbers are crunched.

Trustee Steve Johnson mirrored Spillmann’s thoughts, noting the assignment of features as “alternates” feels very arbitrary to him, and expressing frustration over that fact.

“It’s like you said you were going to give me a pony, and now you’re coming to me with a Frisbee,” Trustee Jessica Neyman said. “We’ve been out there talking up the pony.”

Neyman suggested the Board should be better involved in the process of deciding on the “alternates,” because it is the Trustees who must answer to the community as to the design and status of the project.

During the discussion, the Trustees also expressed concern about the septic system at the facility, with Neyman noting the system has been “glossed over,” and hoping to gain a greater understanding of how the system will function.

Spillmann also questioned the permitting of the septic system, which will include pumps and above-ground filters, as well as a massive leach field behind the school. She wondered if it would be necessary to approach the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for permitting; Zunker said TCEQ would likely defer to Caldwell County’s sanitation department, depending on the size and capacity of the system.

LISD has opened up for public suggestions on the naming of the school, with suggestion boxes available at each elementary campus, as well as an online form available at www.lockhartisd.org. A public meeting will be held on Thursday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lytton Springs Masonic Lodge, where residents can offer their input on the name of the new school.

In other news, the Trustees opened discussion regarding the search for a new superintendent.

The District has been under the leadership of Acting Superintendent Tina Knudsen since late February, when Superintendent Rolando “Rudy” Trevino requested, and was granted, a professional development leave to complete his doctorate.

Last week, the Board voted to open negotiations on a separation agreement with Trevino, leaving the Board with a need to find a new, permanent Superintendent.

Trustee Tom Guyton said he believes before the Trustees move forward with determining how the search will be conducted, he would like to see a timeline as to how the search will be conducted. Though the Board has the option to engage with the Texas Association of School Board (TASB) to conduct the search, Guyton seemed a bit gun-shy about that idea.

“I’m of the mind that you try something once, and if it doesn’t work out, maybe you try another way,” he said.

According to Board President Carl Cisneros, TASB is offering the search at a “limited cost,” with a guarantee, of sorts, that the candidate will remain in District for two years. That offer, according to Neyman, is hard to pass up.

Though they collectively circled around the notion, the Trustees did no officially begin any search process, and are expected to move forward, based on new information presented, in the coming weeks.

In brief news:

After meeting in executive session for more than two hours to discuss employee contracts, the Board reconvened in open session and took no action on their closed-door discussion.

The Trustees recognized three Lockhart High School Powerlifiters, Alexandra Howard, Danyella Norman and Curtis Hawkins, all seniors who qualified for the State Powerlifting Meet this winter.

They also congratulated several students from Lockhart ISD elementary schools who were named science fair winners and members of the Lockhart Junior High School Region-13 “Battle of the Books” competition.

An interim CFO has taken over responsibilities for Knudsen while she is Acting Superintendent. The Interim CFO, Michelle Wiley, was presented with an award for Excellence in Financial Reporting. Wiley also presented preliminary budget information to the Trustees, along with the meeting schedule for preparing the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Rick Johnson came forward to thank the Trustees and the community for their participation in the recent Vietnam Veterans’ Homecoming Celebration.

The Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees routinely meets on the third and fourth Monday of each month, and beginning in May, will be meeting in the City of Lockhart Council Chambers on the third floor of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library Masonic Annex. The meetings are open to the public and are webcast at www.lockhartisd.org.

 

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