SOCSD board approves Partnership School bid

From left to right: SOCSD Board members Melissa Luckett, Keith Coble and Lee Brand Jr. look over information on Partnership School bids Tuesday night. The board approved a bid from the Columbus-based West Brothers Construction Company. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Staff Writer

After discussing some difficult financial realities, the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees accepted a bid for the Partnership School.

The bid is from the Columbus-based West Brothers Construction at a base amount of $26, 302,000. Total project cost is listed at $29,908,401. The bid was approved 4-0, with board secretary John S. Brown absent. JH&H Architects Principal Bruce Wood said some money was saved on the initial cost by value engineering, replacing some components with less expensive alternatives, and removing certain non-essential items from the bid to be purchased later in the project. The board discussed the possibility of approving the bid at its November meeting, but ultimately decided to hold off.

However, some financial concerns still remain, particularly the Mississippi State University Foundation being $2 million short of its $5 million commitment.

Superintendent Eddie Peasant said the foundation was continuing to seek donations toward the project.

Despite the issues and the tight budget the decision puts the district on, Board President Keith Coble expressed support for accepting the bid. He said if they did not, and the project had to be re-bid, costs would likely skyrocket for a smaller building.

“If we don’t conclude this, then we back up and re-bid on a scaled-back project, and that’s going to take a long time,” Coble said.

Wood said the last time a JH&H project was re-bid on the Mississippi State University campus, it ended up with only half the planned savings.

“We planned on $2.8 million in savings, and got $1.4 million, but we lost $2.8 million worth of building,” Wood said. “In other words, building costs went up. We got less building for more money.”
Coble also said the district’s reserve funds could be used in emergency situations if other district money was tied up in the Partnership School.

“I’m trying to think of the worst case scenario,” Coble said. “The worst case scenario is we do this, and a roof leaks somewhere, we’re going to have to take it out of the reserves, because that’s all we’re going to have left.“

The Partnership School is funded by MSU, the state of Mississippi and the district. Upon its completion in May 2019, it will serve all sixth and seventh graders in the district. It will also serve as a laboratory for the MSU College of Education.


The board also hired Anna Guntharp as the district’s new assistant superintendent for federal programs and student support services.

She is currently an assistant superintendent for Tupelo Public Schools, and will begin her new position at the start of the spring semester. She holds a bachelor’s from the University of Mississippi and a master’s from MSU. She is currently pursuing an educational specialist degree from Arkansas State University.

“I am very excited to be coming to Starkville,” Guntharp said. “There are so many great things going on in Starkville right now, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Guntharp said she had worked with Peasant when he was an assistant superintendent in Tupelo.

She was hired by a 4-0 vote, with board secretary John S. Brown absent.