By CARL SMITH
Although Starkville School District Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin is preparing for a new job, he’s also been busy developing a list of repairs and renovation needs for the district’s future.
Gonsoulin unveiled his suggestions for short-term projects during the school board’s Tuesday meeting. His list includes renovations for Starkville High School’s White House, Ward-Stewart Elementary’s cafeteria, and Millsaps Career and Technical Center’s roof; the installation of ornamental fencing at SHS; and upgrades to the SHS football field, track and tennis facility.
The total estimated cost of Gonsoulin’s project list is $2.6 million, but the outgoing administrator says the district’s next budget probably will not cover every project.
Gonsoulin, who was named Fairfield, Ala. City Schools new superintendent in April, said it is important for the district to keep a comprehensive list of repair, maintenance and enhancement projects on a sliding time line to prevent a buildup of unattended issues.
Following his presentation, Gonsoulin acknowledged his upcoming resignation from the district. He is expected to leave SSD before mid-June.
“(The budget) might not get to all of them, but the purpose of having this list is to push the remainder to a date down the line, whether that date is five years or longer,” Gonsoulin said Wednesday. “Repair projects are out of necessity, maintenance will save you money and enhancements will increase the value of your building and are positives for the school district.”
Out of all the listed projects, Gonsoulin suggested the Ward-Stewart cafeteria renovation project be completed the soonest — this summer. The cafeteria itself needs an expanded freezer area in order to meet the growing number of students at the school, Gonsoulin said. The project will cost an estimated $125,000, which is the lowest amount on the short-term needs list.
The Millsaps roof project, listed at an estimated $750,000, is the most expensive item on Gonsoulin’s list. The roof was rubber-coated five years ago, he said, in lieu of replacing it at that time. The expected lifespan of the coating was four years.
“Part of my job entails (examining roofs),” Gonsoulin said. “I didn’t want to walk on that roof because you can tell it’s time to get it changed. It could last us two more years or two more days, and I have already seen the visual problems.”
Gonsoulin’s list suggests a 2012-2013 completion date for the roof project.
As for the White House, a nagging water leak on the east side of the facility has caused structural problems, Gonsoulin said. A portion of the estimated $200,000 project would also be used to renovate the building’s interior for SSD’s expanding art program.
SHS athletic director Stan Miller said he appreciates knowing the district understands and sees the need for upgraded athletic facilities. Miller unveiled his $1.3 million project list to the school board before Gonsoulin’s presentation. He also told trustees costs could be offset by corporate donations, a major donation from an anonymous SHS alumnus and another unnamed entity willing to share one of the project’s future costs.
“I thought it was a really positive board meeting. My presentation and Dr. Gonsoulin’s go hand-in-hand together addressing not only the district’s academic needs, but also its athletic needs,” Miller said. “I’m on board for everything that needs to be done for this school district because we have to maintain all facets and aspects from academics and arts to the athletic department. When I look at what our district and its students, coaches and teachers are doing, we know we’ve got to do what we can to maintain our level of success.”
Miller spoke with incoming Superintendent Lewis Holloway during Jacket Jam about the need to upgrade district athletic facilities. Miller said he believes Holloway, assistant superintendents and the school board fully understand the need to upgrade its sports areas.
“Dr. Holloway was very receptive and knows we have to look at the big picture,” Miller said. “It’s a tough job (making funding choices), but I think our board and our superintendent will find a way down the road to fund our needs. Right now, it’s just a matter of finding funding for our projects.”
Both Gonsoulin’s and Miller’s presentations were meant to only serve as an update to the board of trustees as the district approaches its budget season next month. No official action was taken by the school board.
School Board President Keith Coble said it’s too early to tell exactly how much money the district can spend on repairs and maintenance projects for the next fiscal year.
“(Deciding between projects) is a difficult task for the board. Luckily, we have confidence in the advice our administrators give when we get to that point. We appreciate Dr. Gonsoulin’s list because it’s a starting point for those conversations, but there will be more conversations because I’m sure we’re going to have more needs than there will be money,” Coble said. “The board has to have a list like this because if we cannot see it entirely, we cannot get our priorities right. We had to make some tough choices after the bond process, and we’ll probably have to do it again.”
The board of trustees, administrators and Holloway will continue to work together to appraise every SSD need as the district finalizes its yearly budget, Coble said.
“Dr. Holloway wants to be engaged in the process,” he said. “If we were to make decisions that tie his hands, that’s not fair to him.”