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Concord-Carlisle School Committee and Building Committee Hold Emergency Meeting to Discuss Letter from MSBA

Building Committee reorganizes, co-chair resigns, board names Stan Durlacher new chairperson.

 

The Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee held an emergency joint meeting with the High School Building Committee Thursday night in response to a letter they received from the Massachusetts School Building Authority in which the MSBA stated they were suspending all grant payments for the new CCHS building.

The letter stated that the grants would be suspended until the Concord Carlisle Regional School District showed they had “undertaken a diligent, good faith effort to bring the Project back into compliance with the Project Scope, Total Project Budget and Project Schedule that were agreed upon by the District, approved by the MSBA and memorialized in the [Project Funding Agreement].” It includes a list of nine bulleted items that the District must submit by July 26.Superintendent of Schools Diana Rigby opened up the meeting by saying she was sorry to interrupt everyone’s summer, and that she was “disturbed to receive the letter.” She went through a brief timeline of the project, starting at August of 2011.

“We’ve worked well with the MSBA,” Rigby said. “It’s not helpful to blame one person or group. We’re a team.”

She then announced that Committee Co-Chairperson Jerry Wedge had resigned. Rigby praised him for all his service and said she didn’t want to accept his resignation, but that she encourages everyone to do so.

Later in the meeting Rigby introduced Stan Durlacher, a member of the Committee who is a Carlisle citizen. Durlacher went over his experience, which includes over 40 years of executive leadership in the design and construction industry. While he’s currently the Founder and CEO of Capstone XRM, a large-scale project management software firm, he has also overseen many large construction projects at other companies. Also, he is the former Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (under Governor Bill Weld).

Rigby nominated Durlacher to be the new Committee Chairperson. Concord Selectman Elise Woodward asked several questions about a potential lack of balance if there isn’t going to be a Chairperson from both, Carlisle and Concord.“It’s a tug-of-war,” Durlacher said. “At this point we’re beyond that. We have a building. It’s just communications and visibility. Those aren’t bound by town lines. I can promise you equal access.”

Durlacher received a unanimous vote to be the new committee chair, and he said after the meeting he’s looking forward to his new role.

“In every development project we have, it has its twists and turns,” he said. “Occasionally things get out of sync and get out of the fold that we’d like and it’s time to get it all back together. It’s nothing I haven’t encountered before.”

One major point in the letter the committee received had to do with the addition of a second gym. Some changes had been made to connect a second gym in the design of the new building, but the MSBA said a second gym could not be attached to the building; it would have to be a separate building. It seemed to be something that also was a bit confusing to everyone.

“Initially, they said no to a second gym,” Rigby said. “Then they said yes, but it couldn’t be attached. “Then we found it was cheaper to attach it. We asked for a meeting. They said no, but told us to submit the new plans. Now we get this letter.”

Rigby said the MSBA was concerned about what they were doing between March and May, and that they didn’t have confidence in the Building Committee.

“We need to demonstrate we can be well-managed,” Rigby said.

Chris Popo, a resident of Concord, asked the committee if what happened is unusual for a school project of this size. He was told that the OPM (Owner’s Project Manager) had said things like this do happen sometimes, but School Committee member Phil Benincasa stated he was “concerned because it reflects badly on us.”

Durlacher said the first thing they have to do now is get the funding reinstated by the MSBA. They’re also going to move some people around to different subcommittees. He doesn’t know exactly who will be where, but people have different strengths and he wants to be able to utilize them.

He also talked about dealing with the construction companies and architects. He believes in taking a very firm stance with them in order to make sure the job gets done.

“You’ve gotta enforce discipline in the process and you’ve gotta be a demanding client,” Durlacher said. “I’m not here to necessarily talk about what got us here, but I am here to talk about what you do. Part of it is being a very demanding, knowledgeable client. The folks who were in charge had very definite levels and areas of expertise. I’ve got very different ones. My areas are probably better in tuned to what we have to do and making change. I’m not afraid to make changes. That’s a part of the process. The status quo obviously didn’t get us where we want to be.”

Stressing the importance of there often being a few bumps in the road, Durlacher mentioned once again that, “it’s not much different than I expected. I think people were a little surprised by the issues that we encountered, but it’s time to snap it back on track.”

MGP July 06, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Unfortunately not everyone interested could attend this emergency meeting. However is it the short article or was the major focus on the gym rather than equally on the trasnsportation issues discovered in the offical documentation that seems to be a repeating issue in how the school officials and the committee limit their attention and public disclosure?
Dorrie Kehoe July 06, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I am appalled at the disgraceful handling of the proposed new CCHS building and the latest news re: MSBA. I am further appalled that in a Regional School District (CCHS) that the very powerful Building Committee now is headed by a single Chairman, not Co-Chairs from both Towns. I hope that citizens of Concord will demand that our Town have at least equal representation and authority on this Committe.
viola58 July 07, 2012 at 03:08 AM
I am insulted that a reader would suggest that a Carlisle chair would not represent our public high school fairly simply because he is from Carlisle. This is a time for residents of Concord and Carlisle to come together to solve a problem that affects us equally. It's hard enough being in a district where we are very outnumbered and then read hurtful comments like this. That said, we are proud to send our children to CCHS and know that the majority of Concord residents consider us good friends and colleagues.
MGP July 07, 2012 at 03:35 AM
We should all be appalled by the discovery of facts obrained through the public records and not through forthrightness from the school administration and the committee. That is the big issue along with what appears to be a seriously flawed Town Meeting votes based upon what apears was indeed known before the discussion and votes. As a tax payer, that is a trust issue broken by employees and elected officials irrespective of which town of residence and accountability appears to being avoided and perhaps some of the committee members feel likewise.
Robert Rosen July 07, 2012 at 04:47 AM
The main focus of this meeting was the reorganization of the Building Committee. They spoke about making changes in how the subcommittees are set up, as well as who is on each subcommittee. A point of emphasis was the importance to improve communication with everyone involved and affected by this project, including the MSBA and the citizens of Concord and Carlisle. In addition, they stressed the need to communicate with each other more effectively. Issues regarding transportation weren’t discussed at this meeting, and the even the issue with the second gym wasn’t talked about too much specifically. Instead, the Committee spoke more about the overall problems so far and what needs to be changed in terms of organization to fix those problems. The balance of power on the Building Committee in terms of both towns was addressed and questioned at the meeting by Concord Selectman Elise Woodward, who is on the Committee. While there is now only one Chairperson, there is certainly a balance when it comes to the Committee as a whole. There are several neutral members when it comes to which town they represent, such as principal Peter Badalament and Superintendent Diana Rigby. But when it comes to members who represent either Concord or Carlisle, Concord actually leads that category 8-4. Here is a link to the Building Committee’s website that lists the members of the Committee: http://www.cchsbuilding.org/pb/wp_01ecae11/wp_01ecae11.html.

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