Dickinson Public Schools
Unapproved School Board Workshop Minutes
February 4, 2019; 5:00 p.m.
Board Room, Central Administration Office
The Dickinson Public School Board held a Board workshop on February 4, 2019, at the Central Administration Offices. Board members present: President Brent Seaks, Vice President Kim Schwartz, Board Member David Wilkie, Board Member Michelle Orton, and Board Member Jason Rodakowski. Others present were: Superintendent Shon Hocker, Assistant Superintendent Keith Harris, Business Manager Kent Anderson, Dickinson High School Principal Kevin Hoherz, Dickinson High School Assistant Principal/Activities Director Guy Fridley, The Dickinson Press Reporter Kayla Henson, JE Dunn Construction Senior Project Manager Brian Stark, JE Dunn Construction Project Coordinator Melissa Gjermundson, JE Dunn Operations Coordinator Marc Mellmer, Dickinson High School Construction Technology Instructor Scott Schmidt, Hulsing and Associates Project Manager and Architect Janet Prchal, and School Board Secretary Twila Petersen.
Call to Order - Board President Seaks called the workshop to order at 5:12 p.m.
Dickinson High School Expansion Project - Superintendent Hocker addressed the Board. He explained tonight's work session would be a great opportunity to have a discussion regarding four areas pertaining to the Dickinson High School expansion project.
Board/Contractor Relations - Dr. Hocker explained, in his experience, since the Board represents many constituents, they often receive many difference suggestions and requests on a project. He did not wish to have any Board member be placed in an awkward situation. If a request or recommendation is made to a Board member regarding the project, Dr. Hocker suggested a response could be the Board member is an individual and the request from the constituent may need to be a vote of the entire Board. Superintendent Hocker shared some examples of requests. President Seaks added this is an elaborate process and the District is working with a finite budget.
Project Review - JE Dunn Construction Senior Project Manager Brian Stark and JE Dunn Operations Coordinator Marc Mellmer were invited to provide a brief update to the Board regarding the project.
Mr. Stark stated the project started in the fall of 2017. It is currently at the schematic process. There are user groups and steering committees that have met many times. Currently, the JE Dunn team and steering committees are working on preparation of a potential referendum date and gathering information that is clear, concise, and consistent to be shared with the community.
The team and committees will prepare talking points for most commonly asked questions. There will be public forums scheduled. Each forum will have new information shared.
There was discussion regarding the limitations of Board members or District employees advocating for the bond referendum. Mr. Mellmer recommended seeking legal counsel. He felt the Board and District employees could openly support and promote a bond referendum. President Seaks offered to contact Ms. Amy De Kok, legal counsel for the North Dakota School Boards Association.
Dr. Hocker explained the District's Budget Committee has met and made a recommendation to ask a referendum question that will fund the high school. There would be two questions. One question would be a request for a 5% increase of the current 5% limit of indebtedness. The second question would be requesting a bond not to exceed $115 million for construction of a new high school and elementary school.
Superintendent Hocker shared some enrollment numbers. Currently there are about 362 kindergarten students in the District. Projections for kindergarten students is based on live births at the hospital from five years ago and taking 80% of those births. These numbers seem to be good estimates for projecting incoming kindergartners.
The most recent the number of live births are approximately 700 per year. Using the estimate of 80% of these births would be 560 kindergartners. That is 200 more kindergartners than the District has now. Superintendent Hocker said the District needs to have a plan in place and share that plan with the patrons.
Asking for $115 million from the community through a bond referendum will not fully fund a high school and an elementary school. The District is hopeful there will be some funding available through other avenues in the next legislative cycle.
Dr. Hocker has been active with the state legislature. There have been many bills that have not made it out of the committee recommendation due to unknowns. Superintendent Hocker shared some of the bills that would benefit the District. There are nearly 980 bills being presented.
Board Member Rodakowski explained if the District can change its indebtedness from 5% to 10%, it would change the debt limit from $22 million to approximately $106 million. He noted it was extremely important that both parts of the ballot receive a "yes" vote. President Seaks added if one of the two receives a "no" vote, then the District could bring it back for another special election 90 days later. Mr. Anderson explained there needs to be a 50% pass vote on the debt increase.
Superintendent Hocker commended JE Dunn for the great work in making sure the proposed new high school building was appropriately sized and appropriately constructed. The project started out at $130 million and is now refined down to $108 million. There was discussion regarding the cost of a $16 million swimming pool that will not be included and the difference in cost of an auditorium that would seat 1200 and how it would drastically change the layout of the building. The additional costs for a larger auditorium would be approximately $2.4 million. The current proposal for the auditorium is seating for 800. With the proposed design, the current DHS gymnasiums and 100 pod would be utilized with a new roof and HVAC. This will provide much needed square footage and cost savings than building it new. The gymnasium addition will be separate from the new proposed high school with a skywalk attaching the two.
Referendum Details - Mr. Rodakowski explained the first question to receive input from the voters would be doubling the bond capacity from 5% to 10%. President Seaks added having this question on a ballot followed up with the $115 million general obligation bond for the high school and elementary school question is tying in the bond capacity increase with a project. That is why the two questions are together.
Business Manager Anderson referenced details that need to be addressed before next week Monday's Board meeting. There needs to be talking points, details regarding voting locations, hours for the voting, staffing for the polling site, etc. Those details will be part of the initial resolution the Board will review for consideration. Superintendent Hocker responded each polling location will need a minimum of three trained workers. He added there will need to be a polling site in Dunn County. If there are six or seven polling sites, there would need to be 21+ workers. He did not want someone from the community to say they could not vote because there was not a convenient location. The District will research how many polling machines are available. A suggestion was to have the polling sites open from 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Open Forum Dates - Superintendent Hocker suggested approximately six open forums between now and the date for the referendum vote. President Seaks inquired how long it would take to have the talking points and detail plans available to present at a forum. Mr. Stark responded the open forums could be scheduled starting possibly the last week in February. He added the forums will have new information at each one. There is a communication group that will use different avenues to share information with the public. This would include pictures of the current facility and the projected facility. Additional information will be shared regarding the general maintenance needed, showing student enrollment growth and projections, and also testimonials from students and teachers.
Mr. Mellmer said the feedback from the first forum was to request the Board members be a part of the presentations. Vice President Schwartz said it would be good to be able to share information. In the past, Board members have not been able to share due to the interpretation of Century Code.
Board Member Wilkie inquired if there was a plan to address those individuals that do not have children in the District. Mr. Stark responded that the plan is to demonstrate how the high school is at the core of the city and collaboration with the hospital, community center, and Dickinson State University. Additionally, how it makes a better community and a recruiting tool. Due to a homestead act, Mr. Stark said the change in property taxes would not impact individuals on a fixed income and receive a set amount of dollars. JE Dunn will provide each of the Board members information when speaking to the elderly and how it will be good for the community and not financially impact the elderly.
Dates for the public forums will be coordinated around events scheduled at the high school and in the community. In addition to the open forums, there will be presentations with many various groups within the community.
Adjournment - At 6:30 p.m., President Seaks declared the workshop adjourned.
Brent Seaks, Board President
Kent Anderson, Business Manager
Twila Petersen, Secretary
(Published February 12, 2019)