Bond campaign ready to go without superintendent Rider

Published 2:40 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Brandywine Community Schools is ready for a bond campaign.
The bond committee finalized Monday night a list of projects that would be completed if the bond passes and if there is any money left over, and the next step for the committee is running a campaign. But, that step will most likely go forward without superintendent Gary Rider, who, Saturday, accepted an offer to become the head administrator at Thornapple Kellogg Schools in Middleville.
"There will be an affect, but I think it will be minimal," Rider said of his departure. "At this point in the bond campaign I would be stepping back anyway."
Rider's official hiring depends on a successful contract negotiation with Thornapple Kellogg, who is also facing a bond issue – $29 million and a May 8 election. Rider said the Thornapple Kellogg school board has asked him for help on that campaign as well.
"They've made it clear that they and their community want me a part of their bond campaign," Rider said. "My role there will be similar to here; it's mostly just advisory."
Merritt Elementary School Principal Karen Weimer has been a part of all of the recent bond conversations at Brandywine and will takeover Rider's role for the remainder of the process. Brandywine school board president Phil Bozung said Brandywine and Thornapple Kellogg have been discussing the timing and sensitivity of Rider's transition, and Rider added he expects to hear from his new district in the next few days about the move.
Bozung, careful, as he stated, not to provide "misinformation," said little about the process of finding a replacement for Rider, but admitted there have been preliminary discussions among board members on what options to pursue. Rider said he has been and will continue to work with the Brandywine board to provide them with information on the superintendent replacement process.
Rider said he understands people are concerned with leadership with the district and may be equating the success of the bond with the leader.
"But this community is ready to be able to go and this campaign will go great," he said.
From the beginning, Rider said, the focus and goal of the bond campaign has been "not just win, but win big."
The goal for the district is to have money left over for additional projects, just as in 2003, when a new parking lot was added at Merritt Elementary with money that remained from the bond. The bond committee finalized a list of additional upgrade options Monday night.
Both Rider and Bozung said the first additional project to be completed if funds are left from the upcoming bond would depend on how much money remains. Many on the bond committee seemed to favor installing a track at the high school – at a minimum of $266,000 – to replace the dirt oval currently around the football field.
Other projects that would be considered, most likely if there is less money to work with, are "facelift" improvements – paint, carpet, new countertops – at the Brandywine Middle/High School offices ($75,000), a plaza walkway ($45,000) or entrance canopy ($75,000), both also at the middle/high school.
The bond committee has already agreed to ask voters to support on May 8 a bond proposal for $5.75 million or 4.85 mills. Of that total, $3.17 million would be designated for improvements at Brandywine Elementary.
A large chunk of that would be a $350,000 revamped health and fitness classroom and new locker rooms on the main floor of the building. The outer shell of Brandywine Elementary is also a concern, and renovations would be completed if the bond were passed, Rider said.
The bond committee also received word Monday night a traffic flow study showed no safety concerns in the plan for divided parent and bus drop-off areas at Brandywine Elementary. The space necessary for completing the parent drop-off loop and additional parking spaces to the current lot would come from demolishing the Title I room and the staff lounge on the northwest corner of the building.
The other areas of improvement include finishing the water project and outside upgrades, or "envelope" work, at the middle/high school at a cost of $1,368,064, revamping the two locker rooms at the middle/high school with a price tag of $495,000, spending $430,000 on improving the band/choir room at the middle/high school and repairing the roof at the Bell Education Center for $185,000.