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SAISD Bond 2016: Project Advisory Teams

Anything worth doing, is worth doing right. And over the past 16 months, a strong foundation has been constructed to ensure the success of SAISD’s 13 Bond 2016-related projects. The projects, which will become more visible as the summer approaches, were approved by voters Nov. 8, 2016, to support school building renovations and the development of 21st-century classrooms.

“There has been a lot of work happening behind the scenes that wasn’t necessarily visible to the public,” said Kamal ElHabr, associate superintendent of facilities and construction. “Now we are excited to be moving into the next phase.”

After the Bond passed in 2016, the District expended the first six months addressing strategic and organizational issues including hiring a new chief operations officer and assigning Elhabr in charge of bond implementation. Hiring an entire team to manage 13 projects, leading the selection process of the architectural firms that are the best fit, and establishing a 24-member Citizens Advisory Committee consisting of community and business leaders from throughout SAISD’s seven districts are just a few of the foundational elements that have taken place since then.

Now that the groundwork has been laid, each campus included in Bond 2016 is narrowing its focus by creating campus-based Project Advisory Teams. Members, chosen by each school’s principal, began meeting in March. The teams consist of a mix of community, parents and staff members from the school. Additionally, principals at high schools have the option of selecting student representation. Representatives from District departments like fine arts, athletics, and various curriculum subjects are also invited to attend and provide input.

David Olguin, SAISD project manager of Edison HS, Rogers MS and Brackenridge ES is looking forward to working with these small teams.

“I feel it is essential to have the input of the staff and community,” Olguin said. “By having these meetings we can get into more detail on issues the architects and their teams were not able to notice during their walkthroughs. If we are fixing the classrooms, for example, we want feedback from teachers and students who are actually using these classrooms.”

Pfluger Architects is working on the Rogers MS bond project, and members of the firm have visited the school numerous times over the past few weeks. They have gathered information, talked with the school’s staff, and shadowed students so they can design places and spaces that enhance the educational atmosphere.

Principal architect Robyn Popa is excited to be implementing the campus transformation. 

“This campus has been around since 1959. We are excited to bring it into the 21st century and impact these students who come here,” she said. “Working with the Project Advisory Team is so crucial because we want buy-in from all the stakeholders who are invested into Rogers and into SAISD.”

Popa said she recognizes that the administration, parents, teachers, and community members are the people who really know about the campus and how it functions.

“The feedback given today was awesome because they gravitated toward issues that are important to them that may not be readily apparent to a visitor,” she said. “We are going to go back and tweak a couple of things, and then we are going to sit down and do a more in-depth review one-on-one to get into the details. We are excited to see where it goes from here.”

Bianca Polendo, an instructional assistant at Rogers whose two children attended the school, was one of the three parents who attended a recent team meeting at Rogers.

“I am excited to see that they will be adding, renovating and updating a lot of the things we need,” she said. “I was really excited to be involved in this process. If we as parents and as employees have a voice, that makes a difference. It matters.”

After these small, campus-based teams meet with the architects to develop schematic designs for building interiors, community meetings will start in the spring and continue through the fall.