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Ed. board looks to fill vacant post

By Bryan Richardson

The USD 383 school board is moving forward with the filling of its board vacancy.

Doug Messer, former USD 383 school board president, resigned immediately March 28, citing “family, professional and personal reasons.” The school board agreed Wednesday that waiting until Messer’s term ends in June 2013 would be too long to go without a full board.

According to Kansas statute, the board chooses a person to fill the position after publication of a notice that a vacancy has occurred.

The notice is likely to appear in the Mercury on Sunday. USD 383’s tentative plan is to have applicants send a cover letter and resume no later than noon Tuesday, April 24.

Depending on the number of applicants, the board might use its May 2 meeting to narrow the field down to the top four candidates. Another special meeting for interview the candidates would take place Wednesday, May 9.

Board members discussed potential parameters for the interview process including a consensus that the interviews would happen one at a time with the other candidates outside the room.

Board member Walt Pesaresi said the process could take a while. “Just because we move forward doesn’t mean it might be filled in 30 to 45 days,” he said.

In a related matter, the board decided to keep board vice-president Dave Colburn at his position for the rest of the board year, leaving him as acting president. In the event Colburn isn’t able to fulfill a certain obligation, board member Pete Paukstelis, as the most recent past board president, would act as president.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson parents expressed concerns about the project Wednesday as the board took action on a couple of items related to the school.

The board unanimously approved using Ebert Mayo Design to provide architectural and engineering design for the school’s gym ceiling and restroom renovations.

The board also passed a change order by a 4-1 vote with Darell Edie dissenting. That measure included First Management, Inc. of Lawrence, the project’s general contractor, agreeing to a settlement of $10,000 being deducted from its contract with the district.

Edie said he voted against it because he felt the amount paid by FMI was too low. He said he had an underlying feeling something still isn’t right. “With what they put the students, the parents, the school board and the taxpayers through, it’s just not acceptable,” he said.

The school board has expressed displeasure with the quality of the project since late June. At that time, the project was three weeks to a month behind schedule.

The school year at Woodrow Wilson began on a Friday rather Wednesday due to the building not being ready. The school’s 52 sixth grade students started the year at Northview Elementary before moving back to Woodrow Wilson in October.

Mike Mize, of Universal Construction, became the project’s field manager in September to help get it back on track. FMI paid Mize’s salary.

Pesaresi, a member of the district’s facility and growth committee, said $10,000 was the best the district could do while accounting for days lost due to weather, the district not being ready with certain things on some days and preexisting condition issues with the building.

Program manager Trisha Brooke-Fruendt of Universal Construction, the district’s program management firm, said the money covers the transportation cost of taking the sixth grade students to Northview every day.

Janet Nichols, Woodrow Wilson parent of a sixth grade student, said she didn’t like the wording used by FMI in its letter, which said they are not accepting responsibility for any delays associated with the project.

“I think it should be on the record that them not taking responsibility is like a punch in the stomach,” she said. “It’s adding insult to injury.”

Woodrow Wilson PTO president Stephanie Grynkiewicz said not a single deadline was met and wondered how they could be trusted to complete their duties.

FMI still has some punch list items to finish up with the project as well as doing the playground’s concrete during the summer. The roof and gym ceiling and restroom renovations will be taken care of by another contractor through bidding.

The board is still looking into whether the district wants to fill a formal complaint. It plans to not recommend FMI to any school district who asks about USD 383’s construction process.

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