At the school board meeting on Wednesday night, the administration said the offer from Architectural Innovations to do a more comprehensive demographics and feasibility analysis has been respectfully declined.

The offer letter from Architectural Innovations can be viewed here.

The administration’s explanation for declining the offer has been posted to the district’s website and is shown below.

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“Update: February 28, 2013

 We understand a letter was submitted by Architectural Innovations to the North Allegheny School District in January 2013 in which they offered the School District free “services to complete the Feasibility Study and Demographic Analysis, which would encompass the entire School District…substantiate all estimated costs…could include another demographic analysis….” What is the North Allegheny School District’s intention relative to this offer of free services?

The North Allegheny School District administration will not be engaging in any further work contracts for services related to the current Demographics and Feasibility Study at this time. This Study was originally initiated for three reasons: (1) to analyze the need for renovations and upgrades at Bradford Woods Elementary (BWE), Marshall Elementary (MES) and Marshall Middle (MMS) Schools; (2) to review building capacities; and (3) to provide a demographic study with a ten-year projection of student enrollment. Both the Architectural Innovations report presented in August 2011 (Phase I) and the Thomas & Williamson report (Phase II) presented in August 2012 provided detailed information relative to all three of these criteria. District administration also conducted its own detailed demographic study as a part of the research phase of this project.

While the January letter received from Architectural Innovations inferred otherwise, District administrators recently verified with the firm that their original study did, in fact, provide a capacity analysis of all twelve schools – not just BWE, MES, and MMS. The District sees no need for the additional study, since all the relevant work offered in the January 2013 proposal was completed by this firm and reported on in August 2011.

All the components of the Demographic and Feasibility Study – the Architectural Innovations report, the Thomas & Williamson report, the NASD research and data collection, and community input – are currently being used as a reference by the School Board as they decide whether or not to close Peebles Elementary School (PES). Information relative to secondary schools is not integral to that current concern. The existing information is adequate to support planning that may occur for re-districting at both the elementary and middle school levels.

With regard to the similarities and differences between the Architectural Innovations report (Phase I) and the Thomas & Williamson report (Phase II), both consultants agreed that BWE, MES, and MMS require renovations and upgrades. However, the two reports offer plans that recommend different timelines and different budgetary objectives. Those timelines and budgetary objectives influenced the recommendations of each consultant.

Based upon their findings, the Architectural Innovations report presented more than a dozen recommendations, in response to their identification of over-capacity at the elementary level. The top three recommendations included (1) doing nothing but extensive renovations at BWE, MES and MMS; or (2) closing BWE and doing renovations/upgrades; or (3) closing BWE and PES and doing renovations/upgrades.

Thomas & Williamson presented three options for consideration by the District, based upon their identification of over-capacity at the elementary level. Their recommended option was that of closing PES.

The demographic studies from both reports come to the same conclusions relative to elementary student enrollment over the next ten years. Stable to slightly declining enrollment was projected by both. This information also coincides with the yearly study done by the District administration and the annual work that occurs in support of District enrollment and staffing projections.

As such, Architectural Innovations has been informed that the District is satisfied at this point in time with the sum total of the research and data that has been gathered in support of this project. The scope of their report was complete as submitted. While they offered to retain another demographer at no charge, the conclusions of the original demographer who conducted the study for Architectural Innovations have been verified over the course of the last year and half by two other sources.

It is worth noting that, after Architectural Innovations presented their August 2011 report, the Board requested the Phase II study. The administration issued an RFP detailing the additional work required. Architectural Innovations responded to the Phase II RFP. The quote they submitted was two times higher than the cost of their Phase I study. The District could not justify paying that amount of money for the scope of work in the Phase II study. In negotiations, the District reduced the scope of the RFP and asked Architectural Innovations for another bid. Their quote was still more than 30% higher than the cost of the Phase I work. Ultimately, Thomas & Williamson was selected to do the full scope of work originally requested in the Phase II study.

The work on the Demographic and Feasibility Study has continued for 18 months following the delivery of the Architectural Innovations Phase I report. This project has had on-going exposure in the public forum. The North Allegheny School District has not heard from Architectural Innovations since their bid on the Phase II RFP until the receipt of the letter dated January 2013. After thoughtful consideration, their offer to do additional work has been respectfully declined.”

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Comments
  1. “Thomas & Williamson presented three options for consideration by the District, based upon their identification of over-capacity at the elementary level. Their recommended option was that of closing PES.”

    Can someone please explain why, with all the evidence presented at the Board meeting/hearing of January 30, 2013, the District continues to make decisions based on the obviously flawed
    “identification of over-capacity at the elementary level?”

    I’m also wondering about this part: “The demographic studies from both reports come to the same conclusions relative to elementary student enrollment over the next ten years. Stable to slightly declining enrollment was projected by both. This information also coincides with the yearly study done by the District administration and the annual work that occurs in support of District enrollment and staffing projections.”

    Were the “stable to slightly declining enrollment projections by both” based on information (or…mis-information???”) supplied by the District? After all, proof of INCREASING enrollment was presented at that January 30th meeting/hearing.

    Why isn’t the District at least doing an “oops, we goofed, we need some time to figure this out and fix it?” Why do they seem to be moving ahead on the plans that were based on the incorrect projections?

    Does Architechtural Innovations need to come forward and say that their projections of “stable to decreasing enrollment” were based on what the District told them, if that is, in fact, the case?

    And wait a minute–haven’t we been told by the District all along that enrollment is not stable, but significantly declining? Wasn’t that the official reason for closing one of the elementary schools in the first place? Has the District changed their tune, or did I just misunderstand?

    The more details we learn, the more it seems like they just don’t add up.

  2. Of course the school board would decline an up to date full feasibility study, free of charge, and stick with a study from Thomas & Williamson that cost the district $524K in litigation. Based on what we’ve seen over the past 12+ months, why would we expect anything less? It would make too much sense to get another free unbiased opinion and inch closer to best practice. That would foil the administration’s poorly thought out plan and ways of working. They are still ignoring the petition for community involvement, still spinning their stories and twisting the facts to the uninformed public/media and as far as I know, still making it next to impossible to secure the details of the first feasibility study. We are left to trust an untrustworthy administration and our kids are left with the prospect of unreasonably large class sizes, massive upheaval through redistricting, and ultimately a lower quality of education. The sad reality is the majority of the board is hypnotized by Dr. Gualtieri; and he is taking NA down the same path of destruction he left behind at East Hampton. Brilliant.

  3. Jo Paytas says:

    Well said Allison and Chad, well said.

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