Members of the Bond Oversight Committee met with the Ferndale School Board for the first time during a special board meeting at the Cascadia Elementary School library on Wednesday, March 20th. It became obvious early into the meeting that board directors and committee members had different expectations of the committee’s role and involvement in project decision-making.
The purpose of the meeting was to finalize a governing policy document that would define the committee’s purpose, authority and operating guidelines as a board committee (the draft is provided in its entirety below) while they provide oversight of how the recently approved $112-million bond issue is spent over the next several years.
The Bond Task Force’s final recommendation report to the board included a recommendation to form the committee. The report suggested, “The scope should not grant the committee the power to approve contracts or policies. The committee shall, however make recommendations prior to school board decisions on policies and contracts.”
The committee is made up of 7 members chosen by Bond Task Force members out of 12 applicants who are not employed by the district or the City of Ferndale and have expertise in construction, accounting or related areas. Members serve as unpaid volunteers.
Much of the Wednesday evening board meeting was spent discussing the committee’s purpose and authority.
Members of the committee said they wanted to have an advisory role in the bigger contract, design and purchase decisions and being limited to auditing those decisions after they had been made did not enable the committee to step in before there were problems, only after.
Ferndale School District Superintendent Linda Quinn expressed concern over the level of decisions committee members felt they should be involved. School Board President Kevin Erickson also expressed concern over the time challenges created since the committee will be required to abide by the State’s open public meetings law. This meant they will have to provide advance notice prior to every meeting and they could not convene, even by email, without such notice. Everyone agreed they did not want involvement by the committee to slow down any of the project processes.
Committee members said they wanted to be able to help before there is a problem noting members have construction and financial expertise and can serve as a resource to the district. They assured the board they did not expect to have a vote but could provide input prior to decisions being made.
Quinn said the district would be working with Construction Services Group (CSG) to provide construction management expertise and guidance and she was unsure how they would respond to committee members’ request to be involved in those decisions.
It was decided to initially undertake the smaller capital projects related to infrastructure, safety and security upgrades and see what committee processes and procedures evolved before getting to the larger construction projects of building the new high school and modernizing the performance arts center building.
It was also decided discussion would continue during the next regular school board meeting on Tuesday, March 26th.
The committee has yet to be officially formed and it was expected that would happen once the governing policy document was adopted by the board. It was agreed to continue holding off on officially forming the committee since working on the committee bylaws and other items could be done more quickly while committee members were not bound by the open public meetings law.
Draft School Board governing policy document for Bond Oversight Committee (dated February 27, 2019).