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.”