84" Flat Screens For Asst Superintendents?

I requested copies of plans, artist renderings, list of features and any other documentation the administration could provide me for the new district office construction project, the Taj Mahal. I received a quick response from the administration and picked up a package on Friday. I appreciate the district’s timely response. Click here to view all the documents I received.

Long before I ever requested the documentation, I realized the administration has been treating this project differently than their other multi-million dollar construction projects. For the Beaumont High School theater project, the sports complex, and the high school classroom extension there was no reason to request documentation. The district presented pictures and plans at the board meetings and in the local newspapers. For the sports complex and the classroom extensions they included members of the public on the planning and value engineering committees. With the Taj Mahal, however, there was no public representation on the the planning committee and I have no idea who served on the value engineering committee.  I’ve been following closely for any mention of a value engineering committee and the first I heard of it was after they presented their recommendations last week.

I will operate on the assumption that the district didn't withold any necessary information. I manage a project at my work that involves importing digital versions of architect plans and drawings of my company's office buildings and parking areas into a GIS system. Then we present a web application we call Campus Viewer on our internal intranet for employees to locate people and conference rooms on campus. I am very familiar with architect drawings and I was surprised at the poor quality of the drawings the administration provided me. There were no images of the main building and the drawings seemed to be working rough drafts, not something you would expect from a reputable firm receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work.

Once I started examining the floor plans I came to realize why this project has been handled differently. After seeing some of the features, my first concern was whether these plans were completed before or after the value engineering. The cover letter from the administration referred me to last week’s agenda for a list of the value engineering. You can click here and see pages 54-60 (Warning, it is a very large pdf file and may take a while to download). Dr. Kayrell’s statement last week that the value engineering primarily involved changes in construction materials and some finishing features was very accurate. Once I confirmed I was looking at post value engineering plans, I became more concerned about what I was seeing. I hope you will look at the documents and let me know if I am justified in my concerns about how our kids’ resources are being used.

Here are my major concerns and questions about the project: 

  • Do we need five full size conference rooms, two conference areas and a meeting area?
  • Does each conference room need its own Promethian Smart Board?
  • Does the administration need a main reception area, an enrollment lobby and a reception area for the superintendent?
  • Does every assistant superintendent need their own 84” flat screen in their personal office? You read that right, 84 inches, 7 feet.
  • The building is expected to house 80 office staff and there are about a dozen cubicles and very few offices for multiple workers. Do so many people need their own offices?
  • Does the district need a staff lounge about a quarter of the size of the 216 seat board room?
  • How about space for two 30” x 36” refrigerators? Don’t you think they could get by with one? I share a domestic size refrigerator with about 50-60 coworkers.

It should be obvious to anyone familiar with construction plans and blueprints that the documents I was provided are not complete. I wonder what more a trained eye reviewing actual blueprints might find. I believe there is much more value engineering that should be done. I want to know who was on the value engineering committee that believed that this was all that could be done to safeguard our kids’ resources. I believe the value engineering goal should be to present a plan that at least comes in under the original budget of $10.6 million. I still believe the district office should be built at Chavez for considerably less than $10.6 million I think they could eliminate one of the four wings for now and build it later with proceeds of the sale of some of the properties they are vacating as they centralize their operations.

What do you think?