Ag Education Wakeup Call – Meeting Transcript

On August 17th School Board chairperson Robina Bouffault told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors that consolidating CCPS’s vocational and agricultural education buildings on the new high school campus was “not an option”. Bouffault’s announcement has since stirred surprise and controversy with many people in the community who believed that consolidating the agriculture program into the main campus was still being negotiated.

According to a transcript from last week’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting there was virtually no support for considering the consolidation idea due to concerns over costs and the economy. Rather, the discussion focused on how to better present financial and budget information to the public in a way that would support the current separation plan.

The August 17th meeting provided an important snapshot of the discussions held by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on the topic. Due to the importance of the issue to many of our reader’s, Clarke Daily News obtained an audio file of the proceedings and created a transcription copy of the portion of the meeting related to consolidating the vocational education programs for our readers:

Transcript 3:30 minutes

Mr. Dunning: You’re going to keep those change orders to a minimum aren’t you?

Ms. Bouffault: This is a change order that was already in the budget. This is simply …

Mr. Dunning: I know that. What I am saying is change orders …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: Right now, knock on wood, we are under budget. Because together with the commissioning …

Mr. Dunning begins speaking in parallel

Mr. Dunning: I didn’t ask you that though. I asked you if you were going to keep change orders to a minimum.

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: We are minimizing. So far the only change order that we’ve got is one that we initiated. Ok. Shockey is, is doing their thing.

Mr. Dunning: Just cause you got money doesn’t mean that you do these changes.

Ms. Bouffault: (Laughing) Yes sir. I would like you to know for the testing, the required testing and inspections which we have already approved and this last approval of the commissioning, the budgeted amount for those, those items was $676K. We have in fact done this in reality approved contracts for the amount of $472K and made a $204K savings. Which we are putting into our construction contingency.

Ms. Byrd: Robina, the commissioning makes sure that there aren’t mistakes made along the way by the contractors and that everything is cohesive and so on?

Ms. Bouffault: Well that’s why we’re doing that, that’s right. And that’s why they get in at ground zero while still in the design phase and they review that so if they see any weakness or deficiencies they can be corrected on paper before they actually hit the construction.

Ms. Byrd: And not afterwards.

Ms. Bouffault: And not when it’s later on and construction’s scheduled. Yes, absolutely.

Transcript 5:00 minutes

Mr. Dunning: Your heating system and cooling, is there anything extraordinary there?

Ms. Bouffault: No. The building is a large one, it’s 162,000 square feet, it’s over five times the size of this one. So it has zoned heating and cooling. We have ten zones for the air conditioning – HVAC system within the building – and this is one of the reasons why the commissioning becomes very important because they all have to synchronize and balance in between.

Mr. Dunning: Ten zones.

Ms. Bouffault: It is zoned. Yes, there are ten zones.

Mr. Hobert: Who is the commissioning agent?

Ms. Bouffault: The commissioning agent is Gannett Fleming.

Mr. Hobert begins to speak

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: They are, they have, they are a very large organization. They have their own in-house commissioning department if you like, and they have all the mechanical engineers, and plumbing, and electrical engineers, that we’ll be bringing in to do this. They will be overseeing essentially all of the engineers of Crabtree and Gatter & Diehl.

Mr. Dunning: We don’t want a duplication of some of the headaches that we’ve got here.

Ms. Bouffault: Well, we went through the contracts to avoid duplication of inspections. We knocked out some of the things that they wanted to do for us. For example all of the fire and security systems we’re already doing that with our fire marshal. There are required tests to be done at the end that the fire marshal weighs in on or that the (unintelligible) Kimball, our own security folks and the county security, we’re doing sort of combined security with you all, so we’ve taken those out of the contract. Which helped with the budget.

And, um, what we’ve got also which you will already received a copy of is the very preliminary Crabtree cost estimates for the renovation of the current high school, D. G. Cooley, Primary and also an estimate for the potential addition of the classrooms in the new high school which is under construction.

The copies, if you’ve got that, will know that the total of the whole thing came up to, it’s sort of a generic type of cost estimate with the information that we gave them between $8.5 and $10.8 million which as we all know is above our available funds already appropriated so what we’re going to be doing we decided last night to do is to sit down and, I’m going to be sitting down with Bobby Levi and also with Dr. Murphy, and we’re going to be going through everything that was looked at for which there are cost estimates and we’re going to start refining this. We’re going to start putting details on. There are some things that they did for Primary which I think are not necessary and they did do very complete renovation at the current high school which I think that we could refine that down. There are things that we can pick and chose and try to eliminate to stay within our budget.

Mr. Dunning: Were you trying to squeeze this addition in by cutting other things?

Transcript 8:00 minutes

Ms. Bouffault: Well, I think that the School Board which has yet to make a determination, we’re planning on doing that the 7th, in general the general consensus is that priority has to be given to the elementary schools. That, given the Weldon Cooper ten year projections for a decrease in the high school pupil population, that the urgency is considerably less for an addition to the high school.

We already have a very big high school. We have one that with our current pupil population has over 200 square feet per student. That’s very much on the high side.

Mr. Dunning: What’s the average?

Ms. Bouffault: The average would be anywhere between 165 and 175.

Mr. Dunning: And you’ve got 200

Ms. Bouffault: So we’ve got over two hundred right now.

Mr. Dunning: That should slow most of the enthusiasm down.

Ms. Bouffault: We’ll, I think that you’ll find that the enthusiasm around here is limitless (laughing) for many things so.

Mr. Dunning: Enthusiasm is great when you’ve got the money but when you haven’t got the money…

Ms. Bouffault: So I do think that the school board is fully aware of where the priorities lie and, and what needs to be done first. So we’ll be working on all of that for the 7th of September.

Mr. Dunning: Don’t change too much.

Ms. Bouffault: We’re not gonna change too much.

Mr. Dunning: I’m talking about you personally.

Ms. Bouffault: Don’t change me? You think that I’m going to start spending money?

Mr. Dunning: I think you could. Fall into that.

Ms. Bouffault: What do you think that I’ve been doing for the last two years?

Ms. Byrd: Robina is the cork on the bottle. She keeps the money from flowing out of the bottle. She is the cork. And she’s not going to pop believe me.

(Laughing)

Mr. Staelin: Weldon Cooper I know did the high school, did they do demographic forecast for the middle school and the …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: No they didn’t. They did a five year overall projection which showed a very slight increase but we didn’t ask them to do on a school by school basis for the elementary, middle school and high school because normally we would have had to have paid for that. They did just because we asked them for the high school by itself, which is a relatively small school, they did agree to do that without cost to us.

Transcript 10:00 minutes

I think that right now the growth that we are seeing is a very stagnating population, the population has gone down slightly over the last three years. I have a feeling that, that status quo, or slight decrease is gonna continue over the next five to ten years depending very much on the economy. There are a lot of empty houses out there for sale right now and a lot of people have moved out. And I think that the census is going to bring some surprises to more than one. So yeah, I think that in the short term we’re Ok capacity wise as long as we address the elementary capacity.

Mr. Staelin: Because the middle school was bumping up against its capacity …

Ms. Bouffault: No, it’s down again.

Mr. Staelin: Ok

Ms. Bouffault: It has a good 10% left to go. It was going up and it’s all started to go down. Boyce at one point was above 400 students and is at less than 350 this year. It’s at 325. So I think that we’re safe.

Mr. Dunning: Is that from external or is that internal shifting or …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: We have, we have shifted some of the transfer students who are in the Berryville area who wanted to go to Boyce specifically. They have been shifted back. But independently of that over the last three years we’ve seen a decrease without that.

Mr. Dunning: But you still have some Berryville ones who want to leave school …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: They’re not being given that option this year.

Mr. Dunning: Huh?

Ms. Bouffault: They’re not being given that option.

Mr. Dunning: But there’s some still there aren’t there?

Ms. Bouffault: From Berryville? Yes. The ones that are grandfathered in are there.

Mr. Dunning: it will take two or three or four years to get them …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Byrd: How’s the Cooley population doing?

Ms. Bouffault: The Cooley population is 400 and some odd right now. Since we put Primary… You know Cooley is now composed of D.G. Cooley and Primary so the complete population is above 500 students for the two of them.

Transcript 12:00 minutes

Ms. Byrd: The physical…

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: But we don’t have… The school is only 248 pupils. It’s way over. It’s way over. Capacity for Primary I believe is 185. So it’s way over capacity. It’s 180 students if you just take those two schools, 180 students over capacity right now.

Ms. Byrd: So the trailers are there for quite awhile until…

Transcript 12:25 minutes

Discussion of eventual classroom trailer disposal

Transcript 13:40 minutes

Mr. Weiss: My I ask, may I make just a couple comments. And this is prefaced with not telling you how to spend your money or anything else. At the Fair and some other conversations, and there was a Farm Bureau meeting last night that I wasn’t part of, but, there’s a concern, and there’s an interest, a great interest, in a greenhouse and the vo-ag and the whole situation of whether to leave the agriculture department in its current area or to move it to the new school. There are arguments both for and against the thing. And you don’t necessarily have to get into that. But I will say that there is a great deal of interest by parents and farmers alike and also interest in helping to do that, and helping to fund raise, and helping to be part of the conversation and do what they can to facilitate. Obviously these people would like to have that area moved in total. And as I say, that is a decision for your school board and for those arguments. But I would encourage you to have those discussions. I think that there is enough interest out there and enough…

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: We’ve had many discussions concerning that. At this point in time it’s not even an option. We do not have the space on our lower southern part underneath Mosby. We would have to do it in the northern 13 or 14 acres we have above the to-be-built Mosby. The cost of doing that would be substantial, probably more than the cost of adding on the classrooms.

That was discussed two years ago as a school board and the decision was made at that time when we were contracting with our architects that we were going to get better teaching facilities in our laboratories and technology and everything in our high school by leaving all of our vo-tech and vo-ag hands on buildings right where they are.

At that area there’s about ten acres in the back. There’s an additional eight acres that I think the county would be probably willing to give us if we asked for it. That would give you 18 acres which is a larger area than the one you have over north of Mosby. And it’s an easier one because it’s more adapted to agriculture. And that discussion actually took place a long time ago. It’s not in the plans for the current construction.

Transcription 16:00 minutes

Mr. Weiss: Well I guess I’d encourage you to have that conversation again or make it more available because the comments that I got were not angry comments, but they were more like under the range of $200K it’s better for the children to have them all together, it makes the agriculture department and horticulture department stay within the current buildings so that the children stay within the population and you can draw the urban population together with the …

Ms. Bouffault: Correct

Mr. Weiss: So, I’m not disagreeing with the facts…

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: But you do realize that we already have all of our vo-ag and vo-tech classes in the new building.

Mr. Weiss: I do. Yes.

Ms. Bouffault: It’s already there. What we are talking about is exclusively all of the hands on and that is two separate parts. We will have our classes with all of the students there.

Mr. Weiss: Ok, well, I’m just trying to explain to you that you have a public relations problem. If you’ve already had those conversations and …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: Well actually David, this is a little bit (unintelligible). We have had those conversations on a number of occasions. And there is a small group that is really putting it’s wish list at the top of the list. And we are dealing with that as best we can but they are fully aware of the current conditions that we are working under.

Mr. Weiss: We’ll I don’t mean to contradict you and argue with you but I’m going to because the people that I spoke to are not radical, they’re very concerned about their taxes, but they also. I’m just saying that if you can explain it in a better way…

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: We will work harder at it.

Mr. Weiss: Ok

Ms. Byrd: Robina, I know that this subject has come up for several months since you have been planning this. Can you give us an idea of what it would cost to bring the hands-on situation to the new location considering that the 18 acres that’s left is very rough and?…

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: It’s not 18 acres. It’s less, it’s about 13 acres.

Ms. Byrd: It’s about 13 acres? Have you any idea what it would cost…

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: We haven’t even asked for… We would need to do the same thing we did for our project. We would need to get engineers in there, geo-tech engineer to take a look because it has a rock break going through about half of it and then it slopes down in the back. I’m sure that you’ve all seen the back corner there if you drive by on Route 7.

Mr. Dunning: You’re talking about the new site?

Ms. Bouffault: I’m talking about the new site.

Ms. Byrd: It was mined for soil. There’s big, big humongous pits where they’ve mined the soil. I mean, that’s Alton, he went in there and mined the soil to use on his subdivisions. It looks like a moon crater.

Transcript 18:49 minutes

Ms. Bouffault: Well, it’s not an easy piece of land to deal with. I don’t care who goes in there to build anything. It’s a difficult piece of land, it’s got quite a bit of slope to it. The storm water issues are going to be fairly major, we’re already dealing from those with VDOT. Because one of the things that we had with VDOT, and they do say that they are going forward with this, and the first question that they asked was about stormwater, and did we have any space in our stormwater pond which we have down at the end there near Jackson Drive, and we said no we didn’t we have not we have not calculated any Mosby runoff and we had presumed that they would shed onto the other side of the north of the property. So stormwater is going to be a major, major issue there for anyone doing anything.

It would require a whole new project with its whole new study, site plan, the whole bit.

Ms. Byrd: Is there anyway that you could give us a ballpark kind of a figure because I know   that the people that David’s speaking of would like to have some concrete kind of reasons why it can’t be done or should be done or whatever. Would there be some way that, you know, you could do something like that?

Ms. Bouffault: I could certainly ask …

Mr. Dunning begins speaking in parallel

Mr. Dunning: I support farming and agriculture. But I don’t see any possibilities here. I mean I really don’t. And you’re wrong to say it’s all rough up there. That’s not true. And ah…

Ms. Byrd begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Byrd: Well, Pete you said the rock …

Transcript 20:00 minutes

Mr. Dunning: I’m talking now! And I think that you’ve got to support the school board on this. I think that they’ve gone far enough and I don’t want to see us doing the same things that we’re trying to snub off from the outside which is everybody’s pet project that we can’t afford at this time. Now we’ve had a great situation on the bid. We are in a terrible economy. And if we can get the elementary school and the other things done in the right way, in budget, then afterwards we’ll look at some of the others. But I think that some of the more proactive agricultural things…   I don’t buy this thing that they have to have all of that right in the main school. I think that it’s probably as advantageous, if not more advantageous, to have it on its own and I also feel that a lot of these people who’ll be going to college in the next year or two, and ah, they’re not all going to be in the same building. You’re going to be… Business is going to be there, that’s going to be there. Ah, I just think that they gotta grow up and adapt to the world today. And I think that you’re doing a good job.

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Transcript 21:06 minutes

Ms. Bouffault: I do think that an indication that we’ve had considerable discussions about the greenhouse. Two year’s ago horticulture had 65 students. Last year it had 45 students.

Mr. Dunning: Yeah

Ms. Bouffault: So what we’re looking at. We’re not looking at a global set of installations for 800 students. We’re looking at a reduced number of students. Which is why the school board has had to make some difficult choices and decisions about that as, where can we do the most good with the money that we have.

Ms. Byrd: I think Pete mis-understood what I was asking you to do. I was asking you to give us a ballpark figure of what it would cost because people have to understand why something cannot happen. And why we have to probably stay with what we have. As much as we would like to be all together I think …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: I can, I can certainly ask for generic figures to replicate the assets that we already have where we are currently. We can certainly do that.

Transcript 22:00 minutes

Mr. Weiss: You don’t really need, I don’t think that you need that for us. I think that we’ll support you in your efforts to not have taxes go up and to use your money. But you need to, what I was trying to tell you…

Ms. Bouffault: We need to do a better PR

Mr. Weiss: …   you’ve got a segment out there that is larger than you think it is and they’re not wanting to fight you and they just want to understand…

Ms. Bouffault: Nope, That’s fine

Mr. Weiss: … and they what to help you if they can. You know, it was not an angry… I had not one angry conversation. It was just a lot of conversations about what can we do to help and a philosophy of whether it’s good or not to have them altogether. You know, I can argue both sides of it and I don’t need to because you all can do that. But I’m just trying to get across to you all that …

Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel

Ms. Bouffault: All right, we’ll I think that we do need to. I actually had a call from the current president of the Farm Bureau and I’ll be speaking to them on September 28th.

Mr. Dunning: I think that we have to be careful not to micro-manage the school board.

Mr. Hobert: Can we quote you on that?

(Laughter)

Mr. Dunning: To a point…

Ms. Bouffault: Except for the money.

Multiple speakers speaking simultaneously…

Ms. Byrd: But if you put something down in black and white and give people figures to look at and to study, they understand. You know, Rather than just talking to them, show them.

Ms. Bouffault: We’ll Ok, I’ll ask Crabtree to whip up something for us.

Ms. Byrd: As long as it doesn’t cost eighteen thousand dollars (laughing)

Ms. Bouffault: Well, do they want to fundraise for that as well (laughing)

Transcript 23:30 minutes

Meeting discussion continues

Disclaimer: The provided transcript is a good faith representation of the meeting discussion. The transcript may contain errors due to environmental, technical, speech or other anomalies.

Comments

  1. Any chance of getting transcripts of what Pete Dunning said when we were going through all this same mess when the current HS was being designed? Search for the part where Pete said “…The only thing that comes out of Clarke County are farmers and hairdressers….”

    Tune in next time for the Pete and Robina show.

  2. concerned says:

    Well, someone get out the chlorine tablets, because this pool is getting more and more murky! After reading this article I backtracked and spoke with quite a few people in the community who are involved with this issue to make sure I had my facts straight. The only people in the community I hear talking about the outdoor part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Department is Ms. Bouffault and Farm Bureau. The rest of us feel this would be just fine left at the old school and used as an afterschool type of educational program. And on that note I would like to query as to why it suddenly is so important, the acreage that has been available for that area for years has around 1/4 of an acre of asparagus on it and a man cutting hay on the rest of it. It has not been used for several years. I would encourage Farm Bureau to turn this into a community education garden, perhaps by using grants and Farm Bureau funds. It would not take a $1,000,000.00 to place an excellent Agriculture and Horticulture Department at the new high school. All it would need is the use of 3 classrooms; a workshop area for the Agriculture Dept. out of the 6,000 square foot Technology area, and a greenhouse for the Agriculture and Horticulture Department to share. A greenhouse would be an excellent place for Agriculture students to experiment with the effects of fertilization, organic solutions, and seeding issues. It would also allow Ms. Novak to continue the wonderful Horticulture program she has had going on for years. Outdoor classroom needed? Look around you, there is 1,000’s of acres of outdoor classrooms in our community. Thanks to who? The farmers!

  3. Ellen Terry says:

    “Ms. Bouffault begins speaking in parallel”
    “Mr. Dunning begins speaking in parallel”
    Huh? Wait a minute…when did I last hear about this parallel social experience? Oh yea, I remember: parallel play, as in when my children were preschoolers: too inexperienced, too unaccostumed to playing together.
    You gotta love wikipedia for occasional pithy truth –
    DEFINITION:
    Parallel Play;
    The children do not play together, but alongside each other simply because they are in the same room.
    Ouch, ka bibble.