Priorities for a bond project were established last month in the Newton Board of Education's first meeting with the community vision team. Building off that progress, and to get a better idea of costs associated with potential work, the next step outlined was the hiring of a Construction Manager At-Risk (CMr) — an item brought before the school board at Monday's meeting.

A selection committee was put together specifically to vet CMr candidates and make a recommendation to the board, which committee member Andy Harder presented to the BOE on Monday.

Harder outlined the process the committee followed in coming to its decision, which consisted of three phases — moving from six candidates initially to four finalists that were scored using a variety of categories. The final four were then part of an intense interview process in which the CMr companies were evaluated on how they fit with USD 373 and offered the best chance of successfully pushing a bond through for the district.

Four core criteria (qualifications submittal, proposal submittal, interview and fee proposal) were rated in the decision-making process. The company receiving the highest score and the selection committee's final recommendation was McCownGordon Construction. Knowing how much of a sticking point money was in the previous bond election, Harder stated the company's proposal (consisting of pre-construction and base fees) stood out in particular — along with their other qualifications.

"I think that they would offer the best choices for our school district. They would educate our public. They would help give us the right bond for Newton," Harder said. "For everything that they want to do to help us formulate our bond and sell our bond, the cost is one dollar."

Board members had questions about how much quantity and quality was taken into account with the fees in question, though it was noted the initial proposal is more to serve as a basis for the negotiation process (and further discussions of quality) moving forward.

McCownGordon representatives were present at Monday's meeting and — after the school board approved the hiring of the company as CMr — expressed their excitement at starting work with the Newton school district.

"Rest assured that we are here to be your partner ... and lend a hand," said McCownGordon Vice President Todd Knight. "We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting started. We're ready to go."

With the board approving its CMr, the conversation again turned to what's next. Superintendent Deb Hamm asked what information the BOE requires moving forward while also updating the board on the current monetary allotment ($50 million) available through the state with a few bond projects in other districts being voted down.

Approaching the go/no go point regarding the bond, as Hamm pointed out, multiple board members were in agreement that the next steps are to discuss specifics of the top priorities identified with the community vision team and start to hone in on the enhancements to include in a bond (and what they might cost).

"The things that I am most interested in ... is to break down what the priorities are in the high school," said board member Jennifer Budde. "What are those ultimate priorities that we would really need to be in this bond?"

In other business, the Newton BOE:

Heard a report on highlights and changes (including the addition of a teaching and training pathway) in the Newton High School Career and Technical Education program.
Approved a gift request of carpet squares ($720 value) from Hague's Paint & Decoratin for Cooper Early Education Center and two separate $1,000 donations from Barbara Ann Stucky for the NHS jazz/fine arts department and men's basketball department, respectively.
Approved an online giving site for patrons to donate money towards a Numana food packing event being hosted by the NHS Ag Career Academy.
Approved the extension of the cooperative agreement between the city of Newton, Newton Recreation Commission and USD 373 to continue the work of the Public Buildings Commission, with wording regarding consideration of a mill increase to be amended.
Approved the appointment of Santa Fe 5/6 Center assistant principal Brandon Cheeks to fill a non-expiring term for USD 373 on the NRC board.
Hearing four options on replacement of the chiller at NHS, approved an option that installs a new 400-ton air cooled chiller at the high school (at an initial cost of $360,000) with the option to install a second unit at a later date. Hamm noted this item will come back to the board to discuss designs/potential inclusion in the bond.
Approved the consent agenda items, including payment of bills, personnel report, treasurer's report and supplemental contracts.