Monday, February 16, 2009

FBW: During Budget Crisis, Record Bond Debt, Tough Economic Times, Higher Property Taxes, The School District Proposes New "Taj Mahal" Global Center!

“it’s too early to know what the price tag will be.” Jenney (FBISD Superintendent)

Fort Bend ISD Administration Proposes ‘Global Science Center’ In Bid To Boost Science Scores
February, 2009 | by Bob Dunn, FORTBENDNOW.com

Administrators topped off plans to boost student science scores at Fort Bend Independent School District with a proposal for a major science facility including a planetarium, “Sci-Max” theater, interactive labs and a giant globe rotating in the lobby.

The plans were unveiled for the FBISD board of trustees Monday night during a presentation that ended with a video by Houston’s PBK Architects showing a 3-D rendering of the “Global Center for Science and Technology” while rock music blared in the board room.

Presented by FBISD Chief Academic Officer Dr. John Frossard, Chief Accountability Officer Olwen Herron and Secondary Science Coordinator Melissa Stadfeld, proposal offered the science center as a method of “bridging the divide between theory and practice.”

Accompanying construction of the facility would be a “standards-based” science program for elementary and middle school students whose components would dovetail with interactive labs that could be used throughout the school year on a classroom by classroom basis. . . (get the full story at http://www.fortbendnow.com/2009/02/10/35567/comment-page-1#comment-1234)

Related stories & updates:

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2009/01/pbk_architects_judson_isd.php

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/Judson_ISD_becomes_target_of_FBI_probe.html

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/Judson_examines_its_legal_advice.html

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comments on this article from local blogs:

Anonymous said...
It's hard to believe with the budget crisis that they are actually considering this project with an endless price tag.

Anonymous said...
Related comments from area blogs:

Kampf says:
February 10th, 2009 at 8:16 am (#)

“It could be anywhere from funding it all” from FBISD money, “to not funding any of it at all,” Jenney said.

As wonderful as this sounds don’t you think you should have some idea how to fund it first before making the decision to move ahead on it?

Also, I would like to know how the center is going to offer something new to the area? Don’t we have several of these centers in the Houston location?

How many school and classrooms could we fund for the cost of this building next to the administration office or how many teachers could we better train or pay?

Are the vendors and contractors that desperate for building projects that they need to push this one in a district with its first ever budget deficit?

Do we build a Math Global Center next and then a Reading Global Center after?

Maybe we can build one for each curriculum area surrounding the admin building?

OR perhaps we could use the money on our campuses and in our classrooms to reduce class sizes and improve campus environment?

Amazing how these Taj Mahal building projects always get pushed when our districts are in financial trouble (property taxes raised again in ‘08).

I would hazard to propose that if the district can not get 90-95% of this funded by external sources that they LEAVE the bond money alone for construction of classrooms and campuses FIRST. TELL the board to stop selling these vendor and contributor projects. The WOW factor on these sales pitches is a bit much during these economic times.

twilight says:
February 10th, 2009 at 9:55 am (#)

Never in my 20 years in Fort Bend County have I seen a board so anxious to spend our tax dollars…..aren’t they running a deficit budget? weren’t they just bemoaning the fact that money they don’t have any money?

What are they thinking?

5:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More:

Kampf says:
February 10th, 2009 at 10:02 am (#)

I’m sure they will assign the appropriate “insiders” and yes people to the exploratory committee.

Yes, twilight, that was what happened at the last school board show, but this weeks was a new episode with our money. I wonder how much they paid regular vendor PBK for this elaborate presentation on how to spend our taxes and bond debt?

Kampf says:
February 10th, 2009 at 10:04 am (#)

One more question/suggestion. Can’t they implement the curriculum revisions for far less expenditure without the ADDITIONAL building? How many schools and classroom funding is this thing going to suck up?

Law_Dawg says:
February 10th, 2009 at 12:14 pm (#)

They can spend all this money on things they dont need, but they cant buy the police department the equipment they need to effectively conduct their jobs. Just like the money they want to spend on the program for parents to check grades online. It is going to cost the district about 100,000 dollars to put this program in effect. With all the money the district keeps spending on programs it doesnt realy need, they could have hired 3 police officers and bought 3 fully equiped police cars.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
More:

viewpoint says:
February 10th, 2009 at 12:57 pm (#)

If we public taxpayers wonder or have ideas how, when or where our tax dollars spending should take place, by FBISD BOT? Please step forward an lets attend these public board meeting schedules to get our english word out, tobe heard by FBISD BOT.

February 10, 2009 1:01 PM


Comment deleted
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 10, 2009 1:01 PM


Anonymous said...
More:

Kampf says:
February 10th, 2009 at 2:52 pm (#)

Good point VP, we all need to get more involved, but with rules changes at the commissioners court and BOT in ‘07 will everyone be allowed to speak? It seems it is set-up to protect the vendors, not the taxpayers.

aos4567 says:
February 10th, 2009 at 7:14 pm (#)

I think every science teacher ought to have one or two of these.

February 10, 2009 5:19 PM


Comment deleted
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 10, 2009 5:19 PM


Anonymous said...
Maybe PBK and affiliates heard about the 100+ million dollar surplus fund (fund balance) saved from past bond-debt sales?

February 10, 2009 5:21 PM


Anonymous said...
A little off topic but still related due to a question regarding transparency. So I ask a burning question, why has FBISD hired another one of Feldman & Rogers Lawyers for an inside position? Isn't it enough to have re-hired Feldman & Rogers as the district's attorneys as well as to have hired one of its attorneys as its inside staff attorney?

Now, yet another, as Human Resource Compliance Coordinator so says her business card. But her business card makes no mention of the fact that she is also an attorney. Personally, I like to always be in knowledge of the fact that I am speaking to and/or being questioned by an attorney in any and all circumstances so as to give me the opportunity to have my own attorney present to make certain that my legal rights are protected and not violated. Is it just me or is it something not quite right about this lack of transparency?

February 13, 2009 12:17 AM


FBISDWatch said...
Thank you for sharing that anonymous. Many of us are very much concerned with these vendor relationships and how cozy they are. Ck out the recent post on the vendor PBK and the reports of the FBI investigation into a San Antonio district and PBK.

February 13, 2009 8:45 AM

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anthony1 says:
February 11th, 2009 at 1:55 pm (#)

You had me from hello Board of Trustees!

ScoutWatch says:
February 11th, 2009 at 2:12 pm (#)

They can spend all this money on un needed stuff. Help us out !!! We work for Fort Bend ISD and are having a hard time taking care of our famalies because our bad is very poor !!! We need help !!! Pay us the money we need to survive. We are tired of suffering !!!!

dogandponyshow says:
February 11th, 2009 at 2:17 pm (#)

Sounds like the key line in Jerry McGuire. I wonder what the price tag is and where the money is going to come from?

aos4567 says:
February 13th, 2009 at 8:38 am (#)

Imagine a school district where the money and resources that would be used for this project were dedicated directly to the classroom…

Anthony1 says:
February 13th, 2009 at 3:23 pm (#)

“This is absolutely brilliant. You had me floored,” Board President Sonal Bhuchar told the team of presenters.

“Wow, it makes me wish I were a science teacher,” Trustee Laurie Caldwell said.

“That presentation was absolutely fantastic,” said Board Vice President Steve Smelley. “I was blown away.”

Do you feel the love? “Global Science Center… you complete me!”

rocketag says:
February 13th, 2009 at 6:10 pm (#)

This is not something for the kids. It’s a shrine to the big dogs at FBISD. Let’s be honest, a field trip or two to this place will not significantly raise TAKS scores. The district already has implemented enough ways to teach to that test.

Isn’t the Natural Science Museum opening a satellite center in Telfair? Perhaps FBISD could form some sort of partnership there.

dogandponyshow says:
February 15th, 2009 at 9:33 am (#)

I wonder if this is the same PBK that shows up in the google reports out of a San Antonio school district?

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comments

Never in my 20 years in Fort Bend County have I seen a board so anxious to spend our tax dollars.....aren't they running a deficit budget? weren't they just bemoaning the fact that money they don't have any money?

What are they thinking?

Posted by: fbisdparent at February 13, 2009 01:30 PM

Hmmmmm - somehow the term "boondoggle" comes to mind when I read the proposal. Sounds absolutely fantastic - amazing - complex - almost like "Star Wars". But what ever happened to "keep it simple is smart"???

Do the students and teachers of Fort Bend really need a "pie in the sky" construction project to improve science scores? Or do teachers instead need smaller class size, better equipment, less paper work, more administrative support and then you would see science test scores improve. Many of Fort Bend science teachers have 30+ students in a science class. This is not conducive to producing good test score results.

The project sounds fantastic - almost like a Mecca for science - but has anyone put pencil to paper and actually projected what the increase in test scores potentially will be for every tax dollar that is spent? Or is there a simpler more cost effective method to improve test scores? Is the purpose of the project simply to impress with a grandiose construction project or to get at the root cause of low test scores?

Think of all the teachers that could be hired for this amount of money so that more individual attention could be given to a student from a teacher.

I can not help but be impressed with what I read - but then I wonder - could the same result be achieved by simply giving teachers more time and support to the do they want to do????

Posted by: NMT at February 13, 2009 01:32 PM

Personally I think this is a great idea if it can be funded externally. The problem is that more than likely they will use public monies either from the fund balance (surplus from past bond elections) or the current record bond. The "community-based exploratory committee" will be more than likely made up of organizational members that have a direct economic interest in this building, like the vendors and affiliated associations and then they will sell it to the other "at large" members and then use this to "sell it" to the community.

Get most of it from outside sources and I can support it. Otherwise put the money in the classrooms, materials and training of the teachers, not another "feel good" building that most students and faculty will only see at best ONCE per year.

Posted by: anonymous at February 13, 2009 01:37 PM

Did anyone see this piece on the contractor involved?

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/Judson_ISD_becomes_target_of_FBI_probe.html
Posted by: anonymous at February 13, 2009 01:41 PM

I like the idea of the district building a science and technology center, but wonder how feasible it really is. Are the schools just going to load up groups of kids on buses to the science center 2 or 3 times a week for their "mandatory" instruction? If the committee can demonstrate to me that the proposed technology center will not be dormant most of the year than all for it.

Posted by: Roughneck Bob at February 13, 2009 01:50 PM

I think I would like to see the money go into the classrooms or campuses first, rather than to build this at the main district offices.

Posted by: seldomheard at February 13, 2009 03:46 PM

Very interesting article. Perhaps someone should read it to the board. I too would support this if the finds and tax increase were not expected to be carried by us. I fully support the curriculum and training improvements though.

Posted by: NMT at February 14, 2009 11:19 AM

Here is an update on this one involving several FBISD vendors:

http://fbisdwatch.blogspot.com/2009/02/update-several-shared-vendors-of-fbisd.html

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/Judson_examines_its_legal_advice.html
Posted by: FBISDWatch at February 15, 2009 09:59 AM

Schoools(FBISD) need to educate science basics to students; Air, Water(H2O), green enviornment, land & life on earth. Math calculations on paper to understand and solve science problems for future more.

Posted by: resident at February 15, 2009 08:35 PM

5:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you all think this is bad, try this report

http://www.fortbendnow.com/2009/02/16/35683

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean this is going to be another building project with a curriculum attached?

6:42 AM  
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