Friday, February 15, 2008

School Daze

Well, well, well. It seems that Steve Percival yesterday called a special meeting of the Fayetteville School Board to discuss selling the current campus to the University of Arkansas. The meeting will be at noon on Monday, so any patron who wishes to attend can skip lunch or take off from work. It must be so urgent that it couldn't be held that evening or at the next Board meeting.

School Board President Percival is off in Florida at some important meeting and could not be reached for explanation, nor were UA Chancellor John White and Chancellor-elect David Gearhart available for comment. Board Member Susan Heil, who favors dumping the current property, said, “I think this is a meeting just to gauge what our approach is,” but that doesn't explain the urgency of such a meeting.

Superintendent Bobby New says he thinks the meeting is just to give him instructions on how to proceed in negotiating a sale to the UA but would not deal with a discussion of a preferred school location. One might think that efforts to sell off the current high school would indicate a decision has already been made. Be looking for a future switcheroo, where the University suddenly offers a land swap for part of the UA farm north of the campus.

In a related development, Dr. Janine Parry, UA political science professor and representative of BuildSmart, said the Fayetteville School District’s estimate of $86 million for construction of a new high school is a real low ball figure and that $145 million is a more realistic cost. Superintendent Bobby New, who has never been accused of having much imagination, said he can’t imagine a new facility costing $145 million and dissed Professor Parry by saying he couldn't imagine how his architects and construction experts "were so far off from BuildSmart when they do this for a living.”

Bobby New and everyone else should remember that Dan Coody's fabulous sewer plant to accommodate westward sprawl ended up costing far more than $145 million after a $63 million cost overrun that Coody blamed on low ball estimates from his design and construction experts.

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