Monthly Archives

July 2020

MORE Momentum: Technology

By | News

Our latest MORE momentum webinar focuses on technology, instruction and virtual learning in 2020 and beyond. We discuss the tangible aspects like infrastructure and devices, the instructional aspects like designing learning and the tools to do that well, and the relational aspects like student engagement and teacher support. Each guest offers a unique perspective as we explore the past, present and future of these new waters we are charting.

Our guests include:

  • Jesse Garn, Executive Director of Technology, Midway ISD
  • Dr. Becky Odajima, Director of Innovation and Learning, Midway ISD
  • Wes Kanawyer, Principal at Woodgate Intermediate School, Midway ISD
  • Russ Johnson, CEO, True North Consulting Group
  • Kerri Ranney, Vice President of Educational Practice, Huckabee

We’ve broken out each question for MORE Momentum #7: Technology + Instruction below. You can view the webinar in its entirety by clicking here.

Introduction + Past

Let’s start by looking back at March 2020 when schools closed for the school year. School districts had about a week to prepare amidst significant change. What did that look like in Midway ISD and what did your teams do to solve the challenges you faced?

One of the first things we had to do was mobilize technology to each student in the district and address connectivity (which remains one of the biggest challenges). We also had to support staff, students, devices and services from a remote location to homes across the district. Being a district with an existing 1-to-1 technology initiative helped us deliver instruction. We also focused on professional development to help teachers understand the online tools, resources and learning management systems they’d be using on a daily basis. We released about 100 hours of PD. Our curriculum and instruction team simplified instructional requirements, which helped teachers and parents in this situation.

At the campus level, our number one priority was student wellbeing and ensuring fundamental needs were met. We know that when anxiety goes up, performance goes down—that is true for adults and students. The goal was to lighten anxiety levels, simplify the process and then push out content.

Across the state we saw a lot of innovation in district technology teams. Districts fully embraced collaborative tools so they could maintain engagement with students and staff, but they also had to create new ways to support these tools in remote environments. Districts knew they still had the job of delivering instruction and delivering it to high expectations; this led to exploration of asynchronous PD as well as the #bettertogether movement that opened up new partnerships between school districts and business organizations.

Present

Let’s look at summer 2020. School districts are working feverishly to develop plans to open schools safely in the fall while meeting the needs of families while they deal with this pandemic. What are some of the solutions from the spring that you’re carrying forward into fall?

Instructionally, we are looking at the essential curriculum standards and the best way to deliver them to students. We are implementing a hybrid learning model for students who cannot return to school and supporting the transition for students, teachers and families whose delivery method for learning could change throughout the year. Student interaction is still important, even if learning is taking place remotely. We are re-formulating our approach to interaction and even assessment.

We are also utilizing technology to keep students connected to their peers and developing methods for synchronous instruction that can occur with virtual and at-home students concurrently. At the same time, we are looking to maintain virtual collaboration between teachers and across campuses. Professional development will never be the same, and we are looking at ways to evolve our efforts. 

At the site level, we will have to work to build rapport with new students and families across the district. We will front-load the year with tech proficiency and relationship building.

On the technology side, we have realized more flexibility within our support model. We have also become more comfortable with being uncomfortable and are more flexible mentally. School districts state-wide are remaining focused on connectivity and filling the gaps where needed. We are also seeing the success of content capture in higher ed trickling down into K-12 as school districts incorporate asynchronous learning into curriculum.

Future

Let’s look to the future. What are some of the challenges you already foresee that you’re just now beginning to tackle?

Even once we overcome this virus, we will likely see hybrid learning remain for many different reasons. Some of the main challenges of this environment will be: improving accessibility to fiber networks and community WiFi; cybersecurity threats; and our ability to secure devices and data in an environment that we don’t always control.

We also have to prepare teachers for this hybrid model of learning and set a new standard for best practices in pedagogy. While we hope we never have to close schools so unexpectedly like we did this year, we’ve learned that we need to create a contingency plan in case we ever need to move to a fully virtual learning model again while maintaining consistency.

#InnovationRevolution and the Power in Collaboration

In education, we preach the power of collaboration, and this crisis has continued to show us the importance of collaborating with our colleagues, students and communities. We have found collaborating with different districts in the area to be beneficial as we are able to give one another encouragement and best practices. Our district began using the term #InnovationRevolution to publicly share ways we can all be innovative during this time.

About MORE Momentum

Huckabee’s MORE Momentum series highlights how our educational partners are investing their time, energy and focus to keep the momentum going during this unprecedented “pause.” We will explore themes related to bonds, planning, design and safety and security, among other topics that impact Texas public education. Follow us @HuckabeeInc on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In, or complete the form below to get a first look as new content is released. 

For the full webinar, click below

To learn more about True North Consulting Group, click here.

Keep the momentum going!
Reach out to our Huckabee Communications team to learn MORE.

More Momentum
Sending

Cleveland ISD Prototype

By | Clients

Amidst uncertain and challenging times, Cleveland ISD has reason to celebrate! With the favorable pricing we are seeing in the construction market, the district was able to secure a solid, and under budget, bid for Elementary Campus #5. Huckabee is thrilled with the results and is looking forward to working with Cleveland ISD to deliver excellent value and an exceptional educational environment to their community. For the full story, click here.

The new elementary school is based on the prototype of Southside Elementary School in Cleveland (designed by Huckabee nearly 20 years ago). The team modernized the prototype and added a second story to increase capacity, while maintaining equity with existing schools. The 133,000 sf building will have a high-volume library centrally located on the first floor to allow easy access. Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades will be housed on the first floor with 3rd, 4th and 5th grades located on the second floor. The new elementary school will have a secure entrance vestibule designed to have all visitors enter the main administration area before entering the building.

To learn more about the favorable pricing conditions in the construction market and how school districts can take advantage over the next 6-12 months, check out our MORE Momentum: Construction Market episode here.

Reappointed to TxSSC Board

By | News

Kerri Ranney was reappointed by Governor Greg Abbott to the Texas School Safety Center Board, remaining the sole architect on the 15-member board. The committee focuses on school safety and security and their voices have been key in discussions involving reopening schools amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more about recent appointees and sitting board members, click here.

The Texas School Safety Center’s mission is to “serve schools and communities to create safe, secure, and healthy environments.” Kerri serves as our Vice President of Educational Practice; leads our educational research efforts at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative; led efforts to rewrite the school facility standards for the state of Texas (including school safety revisions); and has participated in several working groups focused on school safety and security. Her passion to create positive changes in education through her work motivates all that she does and is crucial now more than ever.

Investing in Public Education

By | News

Texas public education matters, and Huckabee continues to actively support and advocate for our partners in education as we collectively address critical needs. As a Board Member of the North Texas Commission, our CEO, Chris Huckabee, has joined numerous business and education leaders across the state to ask our elected officials to address public education recovery in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Huckabee firm is supportive of this initiative.

Nineteen major business and education associations, backed by hundreds of public education advocates, signed a letter on June 29 urging elected leaders to enable a statewide task force to assess the challenges posed by COVID-19 to public education in six key areas:

  1. Maintenance of funding
  2. Connectivity, access to technology and contingency planning
  3. Professional development
  4. Assessment and support for students
  5. Health and safety
  6. Acknowledgement of the economic cost of inaction.

Read the letter here.

Through the North Texas Commission, Chris was also asked to join Dr. Susan Bohn, Aledo ISD Superintendent, to co-chair the Education & Workforce Task Force. The group has been charged to develop a list of legislative priorities that require action in the 87th Texas Legislative Session. The success of the previous legislative session brought finance reform to public education, yet, it remains critical that these reforms remain part of a long-term strategy to invest in Texas school districts.

“Together, we made great progress for public education in 2019, but COVID-19 will certainly create budget challenges for the legislature,” said Chris. “We will need a solid and unified voice in Austin this January to keep the ground we have gained and prevent challenges that a lack of funding will create.”

MORE Momentum: Construction

By | News

Part three of Huckabee’s MORE Momentum market update series focuses on the Texas construction market. We discuss the current construction market, what’s changed in the past few months, what school districts can learn from the current state of affairs and the pro/cons of pre-design before passing a bond.

Our guests include:

  • LaShae Baskin, Huckabee’s Austin Office Director
  • Kevin Byrd, Central Texas Vice President of Operations for Bartlett Cocke
  • Dennis Yung, Vice President and General Manager for the Houston and Dallas areas for Skanska
  • Chris Huckabee, CEO of Huckabee

We’ve broken out each question for MORE Momentum #6: Construction Market below. You can view the webinar in its entirety by clicking here.

Austin / San Antonio Market

What is driving the market right now in the Austin and San Antonio areas?

For the first time in 10 years, we are seeing a pricing correction in the market. In recent months, 9/9 project bids have come in significantly under budget, including prototype designs. Factors contributing to savings opportunities include: subcontractor backlog, the supply chain and availability of manpower. If you’re ready, it’s a great time to build.

DFW / Houston Markets

Does this differ from what is going on in the DFW and Houston areas?

In the DFW/Houston markets, commodity prices are favorable. Supply chain updates predict that for the next 6 months, pricing on construction materials and equipment will remain flat and even potentially decrease. This creates ideal conditions for construction projects.

In Houston, 15-20 percent of projects have been delayed, suspended or canceled. Companies are looking to rebuild their backlog. This competitive environment, when combined with favorable commodity prices, creates an ideal time to start construction projects.

Dallas is one of the fastest growing construction markets in the country and is expected to be the second busiest construction market in 2020. However, like other areas throughout Texas, companies, including subcontractors, are looking to fill their backlog.

Impact to School Districts

What are some things that school districts need to be on the lookout for or aware of?

Be diligent when selecting contractors. The K-12 construction and subcontractor market will be flooded with businesses stepping outside their primary sectors. Make sure firms are qualified and capable to deliver K-12 projects. Evaluate their experience and qualifications related to your scope of work.

We have a new normal in the construction industry with new standards for safe work environments. Requirements for social distancing, safe work practices and personal protective equipment all have an impact on productivity. As you build schedules for your projects, make sure they account for these changes.

How Can School Districts Take Advantage of Market Changes

Work with your construction manager and architect to understand the opportunities in your region. While we are not able to see if the price correction will last beyond six months, we see real opportunity right now. If you can take advantage of the current market, do it.

Shovel Ready Pre-Bond

What is critical for school districts to understand about the process of design before a bond is passed? 

The concept of shovel ready pre-bond essentially means getting your project ready to bid so that you can capitalize on a favorable market as soon as funding is available. Districts have adopted the process to help save on inflation. Today, we are looking at a favorable climate where districts can take advantage of the lower prices in the construction market over the next six months.

There are several considerations to determine if this approach is right for your community, including:

  • Mental shift
  • Availability of design funds
  • Community support for this approach
  • Scheduling and time-lost due to COVID-19

It’s critical to ensure that your stakeholders are on board. Your administration, school board and bond steering committee should all be involved in the conversation. Help them understand the pros and cons of this process so you can make an informed decision.

Pros and Cons of Pre-Bond Design

Pre-bond design requires design fees upfront. If this seems like a risk to your community, then this process might not be a good fit. Your decision should be based on data-driven information and what is most logical for your community.

One major benefit of pre-bond design is the ability to keep your projects on schedule. Right now, we are also looking at the opportunity to take advantage of a narrow window for optimum bids. The current market also gives districts the chance to more accurately align costs with contractors, which results in a positive impact on the bottom line.

Final Takeaways

The construction market is very competitive right now, which is driving prices down. Districts can take advantage of this within the next 6 months, because beyond that, we don’t know what pricing will look like. If you have never gone through the process of pre-bond design, and this is something that feels viable for you, start having the conversation with your stakeholders and talk with your architect on what the process looks like for your district. You don’t need to rush anything, but if you are in the position to take advantage of the market right now, you should.

About MORE Momentum

Huckabee’s MORE Momentum series highlights how our educational partners are investing their time, energy and focus to keep the momentum going during this unprecedented “pause.” We will explore themes related to bonds, planning, design and safety and security, among other topics that impact Texas public education. Follow us @HuckabeeInc on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked In, or complete the form below to get a first look as new content is released. 

For the full webinar, click below

Keep the momentum going!
Reach out to our Huckabee Communications team to learn MORE.

More Momentum
Sending

STAY INFORMED

Construction Updates

To subscribe to our construction alerts, please complete the form below. You will receive e-mail notifications of upcoming / currently bidding projects and addenda updates.