Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Greenwell Responds to School Board - "Size of School Too Large"

The following is another excerpt from an editorial in the Birmingham Eccentric, April 1, 2007, from School Board President, Steve Weiss, in response to Don Greenwell, Jr. Editorial published March 25, 2007. Below each excerpt is Mr. Greenwell, Jr’s position.

So let's factually address the question, is this proposal reasonable in size and cost? The district has gone to extraordinary lengths to provide meaningful analysis. Rather than rely on superficial statistics such as "Midwest averages," we have provided detailed comparisons pertinent to Bloomfield Hills Schools.
Importantly, we selected districts in our state with enrollments similar to our district. The key factor in these comparisons is enrollment. Obviously, one cannot fairly compare the cost per square footage, or the square footage per student of a 2,000-student school with that of a 1,000-student school, since certain large space allocations are necessary for both, such as media centers, computer centers, auditoriums, gyms, locker rooms, cafeterias, etc.
Our community has told us loud and clear that it values and desires to maintain two small, safe schools. The plan to rebuild Andover and Lahser on their current sites is within the average range for schools of our size. That is fact.

Mr. Greenwell, Jr. Responds:

Let us look at fact that is supported by real data. In any benchmarking, it is imperative to see how the proposal stands up to a variety of statistics. According to the 11th Annual School Planning & Management Report, on average in the Midwest, our proposed high schools are well above these values, utilizing a median schools size of 1,025 students. In the contested article, it is acknowledged that Bloomfield Hills is not average. However, our proposed high schools exceed even the top 10% in the entire nation, in fact 28% larger. In addition, on a cost per student basis, we are almost double the top 10% in the nation (not average!).

But the district has hand-selected projects with enrollments “similar” to our district. A review of these similar districts shows that they identified only 6 high schools to make their case, up to 9 years old, and stretching all the way to Grand Rapids. Allowing the district license to “cherry-pick” favorable schools, and to escalate construction costs over that time frame (an expertise not usually associated with school districts) a close review shows that the average cost per student is $49,000 for a new high school. Our proposed high schools will cost $72,000 per student to build, yet not one of the identified schools, which purportedly support the district’s case, is as expensive as the Bloomfield Hills proposal!

Somehow Mr. Weiss is able to proclaim that the $72,000 per student that Bloomfield Hills taxpayers will fund is “within the average range for schools of our size”. It is readily apparent that it is not a fact - this time using his term "average" - $72,000 is not within the average range of $49,000!