Thursday, August 31, 2006

What is an expert?

What is an expert? To me an expert is a person who has knowledge that is exceptional in a particular area that is beyond that of the average person. They do not need to be certified nor do they need a degree to be an expert. However, they do need to posses some common traits.

Experts are able to speak on their subject material without notes. If they perform a study or analysis they can recite the methodology, results and answer difficult questions because they have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter.

Experts qualify, validate and verify their work. They are also willing to discuss their work. Was the raw data used in the analysis correct? If you do several studies and obtain different outcomes, you are able to explain why those outcomes occurred. Experts not only put forth theories, but they must also validate their theories. If they do not validate or check a theory, then that is all it will ever be.

Qualification is establishing by objective evidence that a process under anticipated conditions produces a result of product meeting its predetermined requirements

Validation is establishing by objective evidence that a process, under anticipated conditions, consistently produces a result or product meeting its predetermined requirements.

Verification is confirmation by examination and provision of objective evidence that the specified requirements have been fulfilled.

Individuals can easily say they are presenting facts. However, can this individual substantiate these facts? I have asked questions at board meetings about “stated’ facts only to be deferred to someone else who then has two responses:

  • I will have to get back to you on that
  • Schedule a meeting
These types of responses from the individual in charge of a school district indicate a lack of knowledge and respect to the taxpayers. It indicates a lack of thoroughness and attention to detail. He is asking the taxpayers to allow him to spend $63.75 million. Does he not think he needs to justify this sum of money?

When I ask a question of the superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools, it is for him to explain not just to me, but everyone at the meeting. His inability to answer basic questions concerning costs, enrollment, capacities and his total lack of handouts containing data of any kind disqualifies him in my opinion from being an expert.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Renovation or Remonstative?

Those supporting the remonstrative are not asking for a new high school If they win it does not gaurentee anything. All it does is prohibts the school board from going ahead with the renovation under the current board vote. The board can bring up the renovation again in one year and vote on it again. Those who support the remonstative want the school board to review all the options side by side instead of individually with no Enron style accounting tricks.

Those supporting the renovation of Carroll High School put out 12 so called facts. My comments are in blue.

#1 All building cost estimates as reported by the board are from the 2005 NACS feasibility, study. This was a 9 month study conducted by Educational Services Company - a firm of educational, school construction and school budget experts.

I have heard a lot about these estimates, but that is all I have heard talk. I have not seen any real numbers and the NACS web site has no information at all. It does not take an expert to be able to compare costs. We do it every day at the grocery store, department store, home improvement store and when we buy a home. The board evaluated a new high school and said it was too expensive. The board then looked at renovation and said it was just right. No side by side comparison was ever presented to the taxpayers. This remonstrative is not about building a new high school. It is about one thing and one thing only. We need a plan for the future, not another Band-Aid!

#2 Over 60 patrons and school personnel were involved in the study. The study concluded the COMMUNITY recommended adding onto CHS.

Yes, 60 patrons and school personnel were involved in a study. However, the board voted no on a new high school. They did another study and voted yes. Where did the community recommend adding onto CHS? This school district has over 25,000 people supporting it. This remonstrative is to identify those who support renovation over those who want to create a plan for the future instead of same old Band-Aid approached used in the past.

#3 Even if a second high school is constructed- current CHS will need HV AC and technology upgrades.

This may very well be. However, why hide this cost inside the cost of a new high school? These improvements need to be in the open and stand alone. However, this remonstrative is not about a new high school, but doing a thorough comparison of alternatives once a long term need is identified and then developing a plan to meet those needs.

#4 The remonstrators' plan costs an estimated 129% more than the board's recommendation.

The school board states Carroll High School in 2003 had a 9-12 student capacity of 1,500. In 2004 the board stated the 9-12 student capacity increased to 2,150. This is a gain of 650 students. Was this increase free? If so why not do it again? If not why does it not show up in the boards $63.5 million cost for renovation? Could it be it was a different project and unless you add up all related projects, no one knows the true cost? Keep the projects small and no one will catch on.

#5 If a second high school is built -class sizes K -12 will increase and school program offerings in grades K 12 will decrease.

The board states class sizes will increase, but is this true? Grades K-5 spend their day in one classroom. The number of classrooms is now fixed. For their class sizes to increase they either have to close off classrooms or not build a new elementary when capacity is exceeded. We do not need another high school nor do we need another middle school. What we do need is another elementary school. This has nothing to do with a new high school and the renovation does not address the urgent elementary need at all. This is nothing more than a red herring.

#6 The Freshman Campus program is a success -it makes no sense to abandon a program which is a proven academic and social success for students.

We all want our students to be successful, but how do we measure success? There is no statistical difference in ISTEP scores. Certainly two points make a straight line, but it would be foolish and statistically unsound to say the program is a success academically after just two years. The board has not presented any data to support or quantify this claim, but it sure does sound good.

#7 The Remonstrators are not using industry experts for their cost estimates and projections.

The Indiana Department of Education identifies budgetary numbers for estimating the cost of construction for all areas of Indiana. They do this so taxpayers are aware of the costs and can keep their school boards from making mistakes. The suggested square feet per student is 220 sq-ft. The cost identified by the state is $150 sq-ft. To build a school with a capacity of 1,300 would cost $42.9 million. Add in 100 acres of land at $30,000 per acre $2.5 million and utilities $4 million and you are under $75 million. We need a plan for the future, not another Band-Aid!

Want another check? Consider the cost per student of the new Cedar Canyon Elementary with a capacity of 550 students. I hear the cost with land was $17 million. This means cost per seat is $30,909 each. Multiply this by 1,300 students and you get $40.8 million. Let us say you double the size per student. You still come in at under $82 million. Now take the $63.75 million and divide it by 650 students. The cost per seat to renovate is $98,077 per seat!

#8 In July of 2006 the remonstrators asked for a new demographic study. The board provided the study and it reflected an estimated 250 student decrease (2681 to 2431) in projected student numbers by the year 2015-2016.

In 2004 the board demographic expert projected Carroll to have an enrollment in 2005-06 of 1,652. In fact they had 1,717. In July 2006 this same expert did another study. Cedar Canyon was projected to have 370 students when on the first day it had 440.

Fact the 2004 and 2006 study used different actual values for 2001, 2002 and 2003 school years. These enrollment numbers are known and should be identical, why are they different?

Professional stock brokers do no better than the dart board method in picking winning stocks. Is their expert as good?

#9 The demographic study indicates the current middle schools can hold the projected 6-8 students. An additional middle school is not needed.

The school board converted Carroll Middle school with a capacity of 650 to a freshmen academy. Because it did this, it had to build a new Carroll Middle School with a capacity of 1,000. This cost was over $25 million increasing property tax rates. Based on studies no new middle school was needed until 2011. However a new elementary is needed in 2009. Why build a middle school that was not needed and not build a new elementary that was needed? We need a plan for the future, not another Band-Aid!

#10 The current project does not include moving the football stadium.

The current project does not call for it, but this does not keep the board from voting on a new project in the future to move it. The problem is there is no long term or short term plan. We need a plan for the future, not another Band-Aid!

#11 The remonstrators' plan is to spend $118,000,000 and the board's plan is to spend $63,750,000.

The remonstrators’ do not want to spend $118 million. This is the boards number. The remonstrators want a comparison of all options and to come up with a long term plan. The board uses Enron style accounting and puts forth a $63.75 million renovation that adds 650 seats. Why does the board not do the same thing now that they did in 2004 that added 650 seats at no cost again?

#12 The Board's plan is best for the taxpayers AND is best for the academic offerings for K-12 NACS students.

The board has no plan. We need an elementary sooner than we need a high school or middle school. We need a plan for the future, not another Band-Aid!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Does converting a middle school to a freshmen academy cost anything?

Superintendent Yeager was upset with the remonstrators. Why wait years after the study on a second high school to voice opposition? Well it is pretty easy superintendent Yeager. First I waited for the study to be released, but instead of finding it accessible on the web site, I find I have to go to administration office during their working hours to get it. It would really make things easier for all if all public documents were simply scanned into a pdf file and placed on the NACS’s web site.

However, more importantly many of us waited until we had two choices to compare. The board dismissed outright the cost of a second high school. Their study showed a new high school would cost $100 million, which includes land. Sure this is a lot and it is prudent to look at an alternative.

The alternative was a renovation, which added a new much larger gym, administration offices, a few classrooms and moving some other departments. Cost was $63 million. The result of the renovation was a total high school capacity of 2,800 students.

What the school board failed to realize was that others would verify their math. How did they get to 2,800 when the renovation would add 700 seats and Carroll had a capacity of 1500? Well they got 2,800 by converting the Carroll Middle School to a Freshmen Academy. Is there a cost to converting the Carroll Middle School to a Freshmen Academy, yes? The cost is pretty easy to identify. In order to convert the middle school to a freshmen academy, they first had to build a replacement middle school. This mean they had to buy land, put in sewer water and electric. According the board the value of this school was $18,977,633. What I do not know is does the nearly $19 million include land, sewer and electric costs? From what I was told, this did not included land costs. This means the cost to replace the converted middle school is higher.

Now the board likes to show that the increase in the property tax due to the renovation is $213 on a $150K home. What this value does not include is the increase in property tax to pay for the land and new middle school to raise the renovated school capacity to 2,800.

The Superintendent stressed that remonstrators do not include the cost of land in their analysis. Let’s get one thing straight all school require land on which to sit and all land costs money. What the school board did to make the cost of the school look cheaper is to use land it already owned and which is already part of the tax rate. What the school board failed to do is allocate the now allocated lands’ allocated taxes to their respective schools.

If you do not add in the cost of the land for the elementary, why do you add in the cost of land for a new high school? To compare apples to apples, you need to use the same frame of reference. What the school board clearly has done is to leave out the cost of converting the middle school to an academy.

There is no doubt we need another elementary. The freshmen Academy could easily be used as an elementary saving the taxpayers $25 million. This is a credit towards building a new high school.

The board says Carroll requires $20 million to upgrade technology, administrative offices and Heating and AC system. First if we go with a new high school, we do not need more administrative offices since the school body will be reduced back to design capacity. Second, we do not need a technology upgrade. The technology we have now is more than adequate for education. We need to teach our children how to learn and the basics.
Third, the Heating and AC system needs to be looked at without the renovation.

Cost of renovation is $63 million plus the $25 million academy or $88 million.
Cost of a new school is $100 million minus $25 million (value of academy) - $20 million Carroll upgrade. Total cost of a new cost is $55 million.

Now we can do a back of the envelope check to verify if these numbers are even plausible. We know the new Cedar Canyon School was $17 million and has a capacity of 550 students. The cost per seat is $30,909. Even if a high school required twice the space per student or $61,818, we are looking at $80.3 million for 1,300 seat capacity. The school board provided the value of the each school. Carroll has a capacity of 1,500 students and its value is $43,001,656. The cost per seat is $28,668. So taking the $55 million estimate above and dividing it b 1,300 I get $42,307 per seat. Clearly this number is higher the Carroll High School value of $26,668 and less than $61,818.

It would be wise and very prudent to hold off on renovating Carroll until we can clear up the numbers. I support the remonstrative.

NACS School board and Superintendent need to take math class

NACS School board and Superintendent need to take math class
Math is a wonderful thing. Engineers, doctors and many others use math to make life better themselves and others. Math can be used to prove or disprove assumptions and theories. A decision based on an analysis using bad data can prove very costly. NACS superintendent told taxpayers he supports the Carroll renovation based on demographic studies done by a world-renowned demographer. A study done in 2004 projected high school enrollment in 2015 to be 2,698, yet a second study two years later projected it had decreased to 2,431. I decided to verify the numbers and what I found is frightening.

The demographer’s 2006 actual values for 2001 through 2005 were higher than that reported to the Indiana Department of Education. The demographer’s 2004 study used lower enrollment totals for 2001 through 2004 than those used in 2006 yet still different from those reported to the Department of Education. How can actual enrollment values change for 2001 through 2004? We have three different sets of numbers and a superintendent who is not concerned about the discrepancy.

The demographer projected a 3.9% increase in 2005 when in reality it was 5.6% and believes growth will decrease to 2.3% a year in 2015. The new Cedar Canyon Elementary thought they would have 370 students, but instead have 440 an increase of 18.9%.

Projecting future enrollment uses the past rate of change to predict future enrollment. Inflating 2001 through 2004 enrollment numbers beyond actual enrollment values reduces the calculated rate of change over this time frame, reducing future projected enrollment numbers. My calculations using the Social Security Administration’s population data as well as US Census Bureaus data, projects NACS will have 2,711 high school students in 2015.

We are not talking about high level math, simply auditing the basic numbers and making sure they are correct. When I asked the superintendent to review the numbers for accuracy, he had full faith in the demographer. The purpose of the school board is to verify studies they authorize are accurate. Checking a few numbers should be simple, but they won't do it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

WPTA-21 New Show "Reporters"

WPTA-21's Melissa Long hosted a new show dealing with Allen County. It aired at 7:00 and I found it for the most part a good show. They had three pannalists answering and making comments on three different topics, Three Rivers Festavel, Downtown Stadium and Consolidation.

Downtown Stadium
Melissa Long came to the wrong conclusion concerning Matt Sprea’s report on a stadium in terms of another town’s down town success with a stadium. Matt stated downtown appeared to be improving but “it remains to be seen how influential the stadium has actually been in that process.” Melissa Long said “They are considering their downtown stadium some what of a success, at least preliminarily speaking.” Both my wife and I stated at the same time “he did not say that.” Melissa needs to look at the footage a few more times. Reporters need to keep an unbiased view when reporting and need to stay focused on reporting.

I found this particular show to be biased towards a stadium. For the allotted amount of time, they did not get into costs and payback. I am tired of hearing fuzzy feel good things. What I want to see is SHOW ME THE NUMBERS!

The consensus seemed to be that many people were ignorant of the process and did not trust the City of Fort Wayne after the past fifteen years worth of annexation. They seemed to feel that there was no harm in at least investigating the option. I disagree; there is harm in investigating the option of consolidation. The harm is that a vote will have to be taken as to proceed with investigating how any consolidation might work. Allen County includes both city and county residents.

City residents outnumber the county. Sure the majority rules, but in this particular case those inside the City of Fort Wayne have additional costs that those outside the city limits do not have. Annexation has been nothing more than about adding revenues to the City of Fort Wayne. Take me for example, my property taxes increased by over 40% and what did I get? I got recycle bins that are too small and a garbage container that is three times too big. My street does not get plowed, no increase in fire protection, but I do see more police in my area, which I did not need to begin with and now they want a stadium down town. Fort Wayne is a cash strapped city and is hungry for more revenue.

So is it so difficult to understand why those living outside the city limits do not want to even consider consolidation? The problem is trust and we do not trust the mayor or city representatives. They want to nip the problem in the bud before it even has a chance!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Letter sent to the Newspapers on NACS

It is a real shame that NACS board did not present a comparison between building a new high school and renovating Carroll. In all that I have read, the meetings I attended and the questions I asked, I never once received a straight answer from the board. Now I have more information.

The board presented that renovating would cost $63 million while a new high school was $100 million. Sure 63 is less than 100, but these numbers represent what? Renovating includes $20 million to replace a ten-year-old heating and AC system, $9 million for a new gym to accommodate the entire 9-12 student body. It excludes the cost of a new middle school to accommodate the increase in 600 students projected at Carroll as well as the $5 to $6 million to move the stadium. The Freshman Academy was converted from a middle school. What do they plan to do with the current gyms at the freshmen academy and Carroll?

The $100 million includes a new Natatorium at roughly $15 million and $20 million for Carroll’s heating and AC. Renovating increases student capacity by 600 where as a new school increases capacity by 1700 and if the freshmen academy reverts back to a middle school eliminates the need for a new middle school. Was a new Natatorium added, but not identified to inflate cost and sway taxpayers?

The Freshmen Academy and Carroll are two separate schools now. Two high schools without a freshmen Academy would increase high school staff by 2 to 5 people if at all. A strategically placed new high school would reduce student commute time, traffic congestion, save fuel, reduce bus driver labor and bus maintenance costs.

So what is the bottom line? Indiana Department of Local Government Finance figures new cost construction at $153 a square foot and recommends 220 square feet per student. Renovating costs well over $100,000 per student seat while building a new school costs $33,000. A NEW school with a 1,700 student capacity should cost about $56 million. Add in land and I think when taxpayers actually look at what they get for their money will find building a new school is by far the cheaper and smarter way to go in the long run.

Carroll's hallways were built to the minimum code standards of the 60's. After two renovations, do we really want significantly more students crammed in these already over crowded hallways in an emergency?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

NACS Board Votes for Petition Drive

The remonstrators have a web site where you can get their information.

Having read the Journal Gazette this morning on the NACS board vote, I am going to put 100% of my effort in educating the taxpayers of NACS district. What I read and what I was told after speaking with others is the NACS board has mislead the taxpayers.

When I attended the 10/28 meeting my concern was the school board was withholding vital information. When I asked about school capacity, I got different answers. Now I learn the $120 Million price tag for a new high school included $20 million to replace the heating and AC units at Carroll because after then years they are full of mold and/or mildew. In addition the $120 million included the cost of another Natatorium (Swimming pool) at a cost of at least $15 million.

Middleberry, IN is constructing a new high school at a cost of $31 million. Even though its capacity would be half of what a new NACS high school would be it gives a good point of reference on what the true cost would be.

Because this blog format will not allow me or I just do not know how to get my tables to look good, I have put my analysis into a pdf file which anyone may read. I would like feed back on what I have presented so that any errors you find or comments you might have can be corrected and included.

Based on my short interaction with the NACS board, my opinion of them is not good. Their ability to answer direct questions is evasive to say the least. Their ability to put together a presentation showing the cost of both proposals is non existent. They feel they were blind sided by the remonstrative, which shows they are naive to think the taxpayers do not understand basic math and economics.

Please read and comment on my analysis

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Please manually cut and past the following link in your "navigation" box and it should work.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Renovate Carroll or build a new high school?

One of the points made by the school board in support of renovating the current Carroll High School is that a new high school would duplicate administrative personnel. Is this true? Have you seen any numbers or analysis to support this? Are they talking about 1 additional or 30 additional? I could find no analysis so I did my own.

I went to the NACS web site and there I found the names of all staff at all the schools. In fact they broke down the staff in terms of teachers, support, food service and custodial. Knowing their title, I figured out if they were aides, teachers, or what.

I created a nice matrix of all the schools. I compared the ratios of students to principal, support, aides, librarian, food service, custodial and special education.

Carroll High School has four times the number of custodial workers to elementary schools and nearly three times the number of food staff. When I compared the Freshman Academy I found very slight differences. In essence the freshman academy could be said to duplicate the Carroll High School administration and if it were one school, well you would save in consolidating. But wait, when you get over 1,200 students you really do not save on administration personnel. Administration personnel except for the principal, assistant principal, librarian and nurse are not based on student enrollment, but guidance counselors, aids, food service and custodial are.

My model shows there is very little difference in total administrators between renovation and building a new high school. If salary is based on student enrolment, then this lessons the difference even more.

The next time a school board member brings this subject up, they better be ready to present facts.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Chicken or the Egg?

I came across an interesting problem the other day. What documentation does it take to get a social security number? At birth they require just a birth certificate, but after age 12, well documentation gets a bit more restrictive.

After age 12 to obtain a social security number, the individual must:

  • Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); and
  • Show documents proving:
    • U.S. citizenship;
      • U.S. birth certificate
      • U.S. consular report of birth
      • U.S. passport
      • Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship.
    • Age; and
      • birth certificate
    • Identity.
      • U.S. driver’s license
      • State-issued nondriver identification card
      • U.S. passport.
      • Employee ID card
      • School ID card
      • Health insurance card (not a Medicare card)
      • U.S. military ID card
      • Adoption decree.

  • Take your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office
If you do not have a social security number it is pretty doubtful you would have an employee ID. It also would be doubtful that you would have health insurance as well. Most states do not issue driver's licenses or State issued ID's without social security numbers. The military will not let you in without a social security number. To obtain a passport requires a taxpayer identification number, which the IRS will not assign to a United States citizen. If you have graduated it is doubtful you have a current school ID card. And finally if you are not adobted, you would have no adption decree.

What is interesting is that most of the documents to prove identity hinge off the social security number so what purpose does it serve to require these additional documents?

Fort Wayne Politicians Obsession with a Stadium

Fort Wayne is considering a Baseball stadium downtown. Many think this will spur economic development, is this realistic? Let’s take a look at a $10 million price tag to build a stadium. If we think this will bring people down town to spend money such as staying over night in a hotel, just how many people are we talking about?

$10 million with a hotel tax of 10% would require at a very minimum, $100 million in sales. If the hotel costs $100 a night, we are talking about 1 million visitors who stay one night. If the stadium holds 5,000 people, then it will take 200 games to reach this. How many games are played in Fort Wayne (10 a year)? But then how many of the 5,000 would stay over night? It is doubtful that 300 would come from out of town far enough away to stay. In this case we are looking at over 3,300 games or 330 years.

Ok so its pretty easy to see that simply basing it off hotel occupancy will not justify the cost, how about meals at restaurants? Let us assume $25 per person per meal. I believe the meal tax is 7% and Fort Wayne does not get all of this. Now we need 5,714,286 additional customers who were not already eating out in the Fort Wayne area to justify this.

Let us face reality. Families live on a fixed income. They simply cannot increase spending unless there is an increase in income. If the City of Fort Wayne thinks people will spend more, where will this income come from? Will it come from an already reduced savings rate? Will it come from cutting back on other activities in the Fort Wayne area (rob Peter so that Paul can have customers)?

Is it realistic that Fort Wayne can increase its economic sales by over $100 Million by simply building a stadium? If it were that easy, why not build more than one? Why would we not see all cities building stadiums? Building a stadium with tax dollars is a waste of money. Fort Wayne already has taxes that are too high. Building a stadium will saddle our children with debt that is not justified.

Just a little bit.

Years ago while in Elementary School one of my teachers told a story of a Chinese peasant who has saved the Emperor’s son’s life. As a reward the Emperor told the peasant he could have anything he wanted. The peasant asked only that he be given a chessboard and on first black square one coin be placed. On each following black square, the amount would double. Knowing that there were only 32 black squares and placing one coin on the first and doubling there after, the emperor did not think this was very much at all.

How much would be on the chessboard if you started with just a penny?

The first ten squares total $10.23
The next ten squares total $10,475.52
The next ten squares total $10,726,932.48
The last two squares total $32,212,254.72

Total value would have been $42,949,672.95

Pennies do add up!

NBC-33 Debate poll results from 2002