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Rockwood Taxpayers Will Face April Ballot Issue

A $43.5 million bond measure was proposed at Thursday night's Rockwood School District board of education meeting. After two discussions, a $43.2 million bond issue was voted by directors to move forward.

Two underpinning goals anchored the presentations and discussions at Thursday's night board of education meeting regarding a proposed $43.5 million bond measure for the April 3 ballot:  maintaining safety and achievement.

What amount of money will it take to keep students, staff and visitors secure, and what amount of investment does Rockwood need to support the world-class education that has come to be expected for Rockwood students?

After two rounds of discussions, the board's directors arrived at the slightly adjusted price tag of $43.2 million as the immediate future total needed to execute mission-critical projects.

Greg Holthouse, a Rockwood citizen and chair of the 2012 Bond Issue committee, recommended the board move forward with the entire proposed $43.5 million package, . "It’s all there. We've followed a process that involved the right building stakeholders to determine each buildings' needs," he said.

"This list has the recommendations from the professionals who we entrust to run the schools every day, and it has the input from three different committees: finance, technology and bond issue committee."

Holthouse said bond committee members' decisions were guided by the goal of protecting the safety and welfare of students, staff, parents and visitors of Rockwood buildings, and also by desiring to protect the district's infrastructure investment—both bricks and mortar as well as technology.

Of the $43.5 million package, Holthouse said $9 million of it was devoted to the safety and welfare of students and faculty. "Many people don't know that not 100 percent of our buildings are sprinkled (equipped for sprinkling systems in case of fire). We've been accomplishing that incrementally over the years. This bond issue is another bite on that apple," he said.

"Fire alarms go hand-in-hand with the sprinkler systems, so that's why that amount is necessary."

He said another guiding principle for their suggestions was to ensure all Rockwood students have the opportunity to have similar experiences and access to technology, no matter their location.

He named the last guiding mission as the group's desire to keep developing best-in-class facilities. "Many of our gym floors are well over 20 years; some are 40 years old. They can only be refinished so many times," he said.

Additionally, he said Rockwood parking lots cover as much as, or more, pavement surface as the University of Missouri-Columbia. "That much pavement requires maintenance."

What's the Definition of Absolutely Essential Needs?

Board of director Matt Doell led a discussion at the 5 p.m. work session about a handful of areas in which he believed the proposed list of bond-related projects could be adjusted, bringing the recommended bond total down to $39 million at one point.

"Every item (on the proposed bond list) needs to be defendable and critical," said Doell. "We’ve all got Rockwood's best interest at heart, but in fairness to the public, we need to run through this all and see if the amount could be reduced."

Doell's targeted areas were:

  1. Item No. 19:  Was the $7.5 million desired for technology absolute? Doell referenced that at one point in prior months, a total of $7 million was suggested for technology. Rockwood's chief information officer Steve Beatty answered that the department's exact recommendation was never $7 million but that the numbers got rounded off in the early phases of the budgeting process.
  2. Item No. 9:  Just how bad is the playing field at Rockwood Summit High to justify $220,000 worth of improvements? Dennis Griffith, assistant superintendent of administrative services, said it is a multipurpose field with a slope and holes that cause safety hazards. Doell asked if the field is usable. Griffith said it was for practices, but not games.
  3. Item No. 10:  A big-ticket item within this $1,050,000 health and wellness project was $745,000 for a nurses's station at in Wildwood. Griffith said because the current nurse's station is in the middle of counseling space, they would have to move it and build new space for expansion, thereby using the former space for storage or offices. By not building out a new nurses station, this project's amount could be reduced by $200,000. Board president Janet Strate said there’s a need at LaSalle Springs due to the students being served but there is no where to go the way it’s designed.
  4. Item No. 12:  Doell asked what the end impact would be without this $3.5 million space expansion for early childhood, which covers children at age 3 through pre-kindergarten. The answer was that after capacity was reached, Rockwood would have to turn children away. Rockwood's Karen
    Hargadine, executive director of PreK–Elementary education, said a critical factor to consider is special needs' students and having enough space in the immediate areas of all students without having to bus students around throughout the district. She said not providing enough space for those who want to enroll would send the signal that Rockwood doesn't believe early childhood is important. Doell asked if growth is projected in that area. She said enrollment fluctuates year to year, but is growing. One "piece of the puzzle," is where early childhood classrooms are currently housed in elementary buildings, Hargadine said, but elementary administrators are going to need that space back for their own classes. Overload in one spot presents problems in another, she said.
  5. Item No. 13:  Doell said while he understood the roles of libraries have evolved, he wondered if the $500,000 for two library renovations was essential. Griffith said with libraries being the hub of learning in every school, they had envisioned making these better learning environments like the library recently done at . He said if the bond issue doesn’t pass, they’d get through it, but reminded it was a renovation of space, not a build-out. 
  6. Items Nos. 17 and 18:  Doell said it stood to reason that if individual projects on the list were to be adjusted, then the administrative overhead and project management costs also could be reduced proportionately.

Board directors went through each of these line items again at the 7 p.m. meeting. Consensus was reached to save money within the health and wellness project by accomplishing the new nurses' station at LaSalle Springs but by not renovating the vacated space. Another $20,700 in administrative costs were then shaved off the total.

The vote to put forth a $43.2 million bond measure was unanimous. It will be called Proposition R.

Jan G. Jett January 21, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I will not suport any kind of Bond issue or tax hike for Rockwood is long as they have this school board! This school is way to top heavy with adminstrators and department heads. Get Real workers who know how to run the school systems and then we can talk.
D. Howard January 23, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Ms Jett. Check the Dept. of elem and secondary education and specifically the administrator to student ratio. I believe you'll find Rockwood has a higher ratio of students to administrators that almost all other districts (including Parkway, Clayton, Ladue, Kirkwood...). Assuming the MO Dept of Ed has accurate data, how can you say Rockwood is top heavy with administrators? Please provide data to back up your assertion.
Jan G. Jett January 24, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Mr. Howard, The other schools have to many administrators too! All of our schools are top heavy. I don't have the data you asked for. But from what I have read in the papers and seen on TV, This last year it seems like Rockwood is not run with effectiveness or integrity. I have lived in this district and paid taxes to Rockwood since 1985 , and have supported most of the bond issues and tax increases in the past. But with this school board and adminstrator I will vote no on Prop.R. By the way its not Ms. Jett but Mr. Jett
D. Howard January 24, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Mr. Jan Jett, Yes, I understand using actual data is more difficult than reusing sound bites from papers and television. It appears your "top heavy" beef is with all school districts. Fair enough, but for what it's worth, the MO Dept of Ed data indicates Rockwood is not anywhere near the highest admin to student ratio, yet performs well.
Tom Mueller January 24, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I read and hear over and over that many people are opposed to a Rockwood bond issue, because they believe that the district overspends on faculty and administrators. I don't agree on that point, but regardless, I thought I would provide some information to help inform district voters: The district gets its money from TWO sources: Operating funds (mostly property taxes and state money) and Bonds. Operating funds pay for teachers, administrators, utilities, etc. Bond funds pay for upgrades and maintenance to facilities. It's not quite that clean-cut, but that's the simple way of putting it. None of any RSD bond issue money goes to faculty or administrators. It goes to capital improvements. There are some real facility "NEEDS" out there that will not be addressed without bond funds. Something else that many people don't know is how little the district pays for it's debt. LESS THAN TWO PERCENT!!! That's almost like zero percent financing, which I'm sure many of us have taken advantage of for our own purchases. If you are only borrowing what you NEED and are paying very little in interest, a bond issue is a smart way to fund critical projects.
Mark S January 25, 2012 at 08:16 AM
Tom, I'm sure that there are facilities that could use some upgrades but that's not really the issue. If the RSD simply were more careful with the taxpayer monies that they already have, then they would easily be able to afford to make their upgrades and would not have to to cut their budget. I find it particularly irritating that the district threatens constant budget cuts as a propaganda vehicle to gain community sympathy for a bond issue. They have wasted money for years, and they will continue to waste money unless a new BOE puts a stop to it all. The district spends money like drunken sailors. The RSD needs to tighten it's belt on wasteful spending. Hopefully a Missouri State Audit of the RSD in 2012 will enlighten us all. For now, I'll be voting NO on any Bond Issue or tax increase. It's a shame I can only vote once.
Eileen Tyrrell January 25, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Mr. Howard; It is irrelevant where Rockwood rates among other school districts in the area or state. The bottom line is a large majority of school district are top heavy. When every administrator has a "secretary" (title on rsd organizational chart) and our teacher have to "share" an aide with several other teacher; there is something clearly wrong. Below is a summary of staffing at Central Services, alone: Summary of Central Service Staff as listed on current Rockwood School District Organizational Chart: Superintendent - 1; Associate Superintendent - 1; Assistant Superintendents -2; Executive Directors - 3; Chief Officers - 3; Secretaries/Admin Asst. - 33; Directors - 12; Supervisors - 26; Coordinators - 19; Facilitators - 18; Specialists - 29; Analysts - 8; Managers - 14; Purchasing Agents/Assistants - 3; Processors- 4; Leads - 1; Technicians - 5; Clerks - 8; Social Workers - 3; Coach/Instructor - 2
D. Howard January 25, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Ms. Tyrrell, I'm sure Mr. Jett appreciates your effort to provide support for his "top heavy" assertion. Your statement "The bottom line is a large majority of school district are top heavy" does sound like an opinion, and your supporting data seems to be a portion of a district organization chart with numbers (for both management and non-management staff). Have you considered looking at the overall management to staff ratio or some other measure that industries tends to use for comparative purposes? Possibly your background and experience, or formal education are the basis for your authority and expertise regarding public sector organizational development and/or structures? If so, that's fine, but I am more inclined to be convinced of an assertion such as being "top heavy" when factual data is used and presented in a relative or comparative format. Thanks for any additional data that you may be willing and able to provide regarding this issue.
M. Baker January 26, 2012 at 06:59 PM
To D. Howard, I agree with the idea of providing facts to back up general statements. I hesitate to speak for Jet or Tyrell, but based on Tyrell's comments and the central services staff listed in her comment above it looks like she may be saying there are too many supporting staff at rockwood. In other words, too much overhead and so the top heavy comment.
Don P January 26, 2012 at 10:38 PM
I keep reading that many people are unhappy with the Board and what it has done to put Rockwood in this situation, and all that maybe true, but from what I can tell there are three new members out of 7 since this time last year and after this election we'll have 4 new BOE members which would be a majority, I guess I'm more willing than others to let this board work towards reducing spending and fixing some of the problems that occurred in the past with previous boards, I am however disappointed that after so many complaints only four people are running for two spots and the bios that have been provided are very vague. I don't want to see as many debates as we are getting with the Republican nominees but I do hope that we get to find out as much as possible about these candidates before election day. Also I hope that people remember this is not a political office but a school board race and act accordingly..
R. Woodson January 27, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Could be the hours required and pay ($0).
Don P January 27, 2012 at 01:13 AM
R. Woodson you are probably right, seems to me a good reason to ask first to candidates, what is your motivation for running? (without saying it's about the kid's) I just hope we are not looking at candidates who are politically motivated to run...Had that last year not looking for it this year....
M. Baker January 27, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Regarding the bloated bureaucracy of central services mentioned above. I decided to check for myself instead of just believing those who claim to want to "inform and educate" with general statements. I checked the administration organization chart (rockwood site under community/administration) and decided to start with Human Resources. It appears they have 14 staff members, not including the one health person who reports to HR. Then I checked the number of employees (on the rockwood site aboutus/district facts page). It states Total Employees: 3,379 (not including seasonal employees). Then I checked the web (google search) for HR staff to employee ratios - there are many resources, but in a nutshell, many companies use an average of 1 HR person for every 100 employees. Other sources show an average ratio for a company with about 3500 employee would be between .5 and .7 The ratio is calculated by dividing the number of HR staff by the total employees and multiplying times 100. So in looking at rockwood, 14/3400 X 100 = .41 or if you use the 1:100 ratio, there would be about 34 HR staff members serving 3400 employees. Either way you calculate it, rockwood is well below industry averages for HR staff to employees (and the calc. included just regular employees, not seasonal). So bottom line - rockwood seems to be providing a very efficient HR function based on industry standards. Shall we go to the next "overstaffed" rockwood central services department?
R. Woodson January 27, 2012 at 02:04 AM
@ Don P. Yes, agree that a person must have some motivation or agenda to run for the office. Candidate forums offer an opportunity to ask questions. Like you, I hope the motives are for the good of the kids and community as opposed to partisan retribution.
D. Howard January 28, 2012 at 04:15 PM
M. Baker, Thank you for the data and analysis. It is helpful to see factual information that supports (or refutes) broad-brush statements.
DAE February 10, 2012 at 04:20 AM
On the comment of 1 hr person per 100 employees, I work in benefits and focus on groups over 100 employees and I will tell you in the state of Missouri, that ratio is not even close to that stat. Many companies are having to move hr functions to the accounting area or other operational departments. In a perfect economy, maybe that ratio is realistic, but not in the current economy. Google is great for stats, but do not always accurately reflect what is happening in the real world.

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