At the FHSD school board meeting 11/23, we were greeted with a surprising development – Francis Howell North budgeted high school remodel’s price had increased – by a whooping 80 million dollars. I feel concern, dismay and disappointment at how the board and administration have managed and communicated Prop S – and by extension, management of this project.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I’m a data guy. Let’s look at data to drive our decision making and put processes in place to prevent these things from happening. Here are a few data examples – data direct from the website in regards to Prop S.

  • Becky-David Playground upgrade – 50% above estimates.
  • Independence Playground upgrades – 83% above estimates.
  • Security Vestibules – 147% above estimates.
  • Saeger Parking Lot Paving – 133% above estimates
  • Bryan Middle Parking Lot – 253% above estimates[BS1]  and finally…
  • FH Central Parking Lot – 410% above estimates

These 6 projects alone account for Prop S being 2.5 million dollars over budget…but were still approved, with no transparent questions or discussion among the board. 

We heard how SM Wilson had been working with the district to find cost savings but had failed to publicly present costs until this point in the project, and it appeared the board did not know about these conversations.  While, at the October board meeting new insurance was purchased, with an attached September memo stating the need as, ‘to cover the full amount of anticipated construction cost’…this  indicates the district had at least some knowledge of the magnitude of increase. 

As a family in the district, it feels like our trust has been taken advantage of, or everyone has been asleep at the wheel — when this happens people get hurt. 

Taxpayers get hurt as more revenue is requested to make up for the mismanagement and are scorned for ‘not supporting teachers and/or students’.  Teachers get hurt if used to justify another year without a pay increase.  Students get hurt as we lose teachers. 

But most importantly, the quality of education is diminished.

The decisions and the discussions surrounding Prop S must be transparent moving forward. I appreciate the board and district taking the first steps by having open comments surrounding these issues, but it is no where near enough to tackle these issues.

The purpose of the district is to educate our children, to build their knowledge base, instill good work ethic, and develop their full potential.  None of that requires new parking lots, playground equipment, or fancy buildings.  It does require great teachers…and I suggest everyone remember that and we stop making decisions in the dark.  

I propose all projects should be paused and reviewed, any obscene cost overruns should be rooted out to be delayed, redesigned, or rebid by any and all contractors able and willing to do the job.