Who should serve on the school building committee?

Barrington School Committee discusses hiring a project manager for upcoming project

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/24/23

Two weeks ago, the Barrington School Committee abandoned the plan to build a new Grade 3-to-5 school in town. 

And on Thursday night, Jan. 19, committee members took their first step towards …

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Who should serve on the school building committee?

Barrington School Committee discusses hiring a project manager for upcoming project

Posted

Two weeks ago, the Barrington School Committee abandoned the plan to build a new Grade 3-to-5 school in town. 

And on Thursday night, Jan. 19, committee members took their first step towards creating a new school construction plan. 

After voting to hire an architecture firm to handle the Stage 1 re-submission, school committee members discussed who should serve on the school building committee and when they should hire an owner’s project manager (OPM) to guide them through the process. 

Barrington School Committee Chairman Patrick McCrann said the current school building committee was constituted from the district’s facilities committee — he said that was different than how officials formed the school building committee for the middle school project years ago. 

School Committee member TJ Peck said it was important that the building committee feature a diverse group of residents — he said there are a number of people in Barrington who would be an asset to the process. 

School Committee member Megan Douglas urged officials to avoid comparisons between the current building committee and former ones. She said that early on, the middle school planning process was also “messy.”

School Committee member Frazier Bell said there existed a public perception that the building committee steered the process toward certain plans because district administrators were pushing for that. The current building committee, comprised of 14 people, includes a handful district administrators.

School committee members indicated that there was some flexibility or ambiguity with the Rhode Island Department of Education guidelines for school building committees. 

Peck suggested the school committee invite RIDE Chief Operating Officer Mario Carreno to an upcoming Barrington meeting to answer questions and clear up any confusion about the process. Douglas said she was worried about how much time that would require.

School Committee member Amanda Regino Basse was concerned that if the building committee membership was increased it may be difficult to reach quorum. 

Eventually, School Committee members agreed to reach out to Carreno to see if he is available to speak with the group. McCrann plans to find out whether existing building committee members want to continue serving. He will try to determine that information when the building committee meets next week. 

Differing views

There were some differing opinions when School Committee members discussed hiring an owner’s project manager.

Some committee members were interested in issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ), opening up the field of potential candidates for the position. Douglas referenced a list of OPMs that had already been vetted by the state department of education. 

Peck said it the owner’s project manager plays a critical role in helping the school committee review the construction plan. Peck voiced an interest in having the school committee play a more active and involved role in the process, but Douglas seemed to push back against that. She said that if the school committee is vetting everything it would not have enough time to get its other work done. 

Peck pushed back, stating that this facilities work was very important — he referred to it as a “nine figure” decision. Peck said he did not want to have the building committee making the final decision. 

Toward the end of the discussion, School Committee members agreed to send any edits to the owner’s project manager RFQ to Doug Fiore, the director of administration and finance for the school department. There was interest in School Committee members to issue the RFQ prior to the Feb. 9 meeting. 

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.