The School Committee is officially seeking four or five community members for a new School Building Committee after voting to create the panel and approving its charge on April 12.
The new SBC will work closely with a community center building committee, whose charge will be discussed by selectmen at their April 24 meeting. Voters last month approved funding feasibility studies for both school and community center projects on the Ballfield Road campus.
The School Committee is seeking four or five community members with experience in fields that are relevant to the SBC’s work, such as architecture, planning or design, project management, or community engagement. Potential candidates should email letters of interest, mentioning relevant experience to the SC at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for SBC candidate submissions is Monday, April 24, and the SC will appoint members at its April 27 meeting. The new SBC will hold its first meeting the following week.
The SBC’s charge includes hiring an owner’s project manager and design firm, detailing space requirements for the educational program, creating a plan for communications and community input, preparing at least three design solutions with cost estimates for review and vote by Town Meeting, and developing a partial schematic design and specific cost estimate for the preliminary design selected at that Town Meeting.
“The School Committee promises that membership on the SBC will entail long hours, hard work, difficult conversations, no pay, and uncertain rewards. It also offers an opportunity to participate in the creation of a central piece of the community and the future of this town,” the committee wrote. Residents who would like to discuss the responsibilities and expectations of SBC membership are encouraged to email the SC at the same address.
The exact mechanisms for how the two building committees will work together haven’t been worked out yet, though selectmen discussed the issue at their April 11 meeting with SC members. For example, the groups would have to decide early on whether to hire a design firm with two separate teams (one for the school building and the other for a community center), a single design team, or two separate firms.
With two teams in a single a company, “you have that kind of built-in collaboration in a much easier way,” Selectman James Craig said.
Another suggestion was having one or more residents be members of both groups, “but that seems like a herculean task,” Craig said. Selectman Jonathan Dwyer suggested a “wrapper” group “so the two teams don’t have their silos and it’s more like one team with a single mission.”
“As much as you all may try, without some codified organizational structure to overcome it, the notion of collaboration when the rubber hits the road and dollar signs start flying around is going to get really tough,” former Selectman Sara Mattes said in the meeting’s open forum. “To me, in past experience, liaisons alone don’t do it. Maybe this will be magical and there’s enough good will to carry it forward, but we have some tough slogging ahead and some really important big-ticket projects ahead of us.”
Mattes suggested a five-person executive committee with a member from each of the building committees plus one each from the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and either Finance Committee or Capital Planning Committee. Such a group could assure various constituencies such as the Green Energy Committee that “they’ve got another sounding board and sort of a mediator in the process,” she said.
Whatever the firm or firms are hired for the two projects will be required to solicit and incorporate substantial public input all along the way.“Whatever you think is normal outreach, double it and be creative,” said Selectman and recent SC chair Jennifer Glass.