All Posts By

Jennifer Wilson

2020 Legislative Summit

By | Clients

Huckabee is committed to advocating for public education with the Texas legislature. The 87th Legislative Session will be like none other. It will require school district leaders, community members and public school supporters to engage in the process to achieve the best outcome for education. Huckabee has successfully lobbied on behalf of Texas public schools for many years and will continue to do so with the help of our friends at HillCo Partners.

In October, nearly 50 superintendents from across Texas met during our Legislative Summit at the Hammerlun Center in Georgetown, Texas to prioritize educational issues for special focus during the upcoming session. After hearing from Rep. Dan Huberty, Sen. Beverly Powell and Buddy Jones of HillCo and after two rounds of voting, several key priorities rose to the top.

  • Strengthen Local Control and Flexibility
  • Support Texas School Pandemic Relief and Recovery Needs
  • Improve Charter School Transparency and Efficiency
  • Restore School District Authority of Election Order Content

To view the priorities more in detail, click here. It will require all of us working together to achieve positive results this session for the millions of Texas students counting on us!

2020 TASA / TASB Awards

By | Clients

Northwest ISD, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and Georgetown ISD have been recognized by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) for their design and instructional vision. Their school designs received Stars of Distinction in this year’s TASA / TASB Exhibit of School Architecture; two of the schools, Lance Thompson Elementary School (Northwest ISD) and James Tippit Middle School (Georgetown ISD), also qualified for the prestigious Caudill Class.

The Exhibit of School Architecture awards are given at the discretion of a 12-member jury, which includes: four school board members, four school administrators, and four members from the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) Southern Region. The juried exhibit awarded Stars of Distinction for Excellence to 25 projects in one or more of the following six areas: design, value, sustainability, community, planning, and school transformation. Click below to view the submissions.

Stars of Distinction for each campus include:

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: Real Estate

By | News

Huckabee’s most recent on-demand webinars highlight the state of the market in three key areas: Bond Sales / Financing, Real Estate and Construction. The second of this series looks at the real estate market with a focus on selecting and purchasing land for new school buildings.

Our guest is George Curry of JLL, a commercial real estate firm. George has helped Texas public school districts locate and purchase land for dozens of schools (elementary to high school) over the last several years. George is joined by Gary Rademacher, a Principal at Huckabee, who has served as an architect for Texas school districts for nearly 30 years.

We’ve broken out each question for MORE Momentum #5: Real Estate below. You can view the webinar in its entirety by clicking here.

Introduction

Since the start of the pandemic, what are you seeing in the real estate market? Clients are asking how the pandemic will impact their ability to negotiate and purchase land. Is now a good time to buy?

There hasn’t been much of a change to this point. Up until March, the market was hot and Texas was doing well. It has certainly cooled some, but we haven’t seen any changes as far as land prices are concerned. 

In DFW, we continue to have a good market. Globally, as far as Texas is concerned, DFW, Austin and San Antonio are steady, but Houston has taken it on the chin. They’ve been hit with a double whammy from the virus and low oil prices.

Advice for School Districts

Buy Buy Buy! The market has been strong over the past 3-5 years and prices are continuing to escalate, especially around major metroplexes. There may be a small window in the next 3-12 months where prices may not go down, but instead, may take a pause. It’s a good time to lock down sites which may go up in price over the next few years. 

Working with Developers

Recently, developers seem more willing to donate land if they have a mega-site, somewhere between 200-500 acres for a development. However, with smaller acreage sites (100-200 acres), developers aren’t as willing to give land freely for schools. There’s been more resistance to donating land as homes sales have been strong.

Selecting the Right Piece of Land

The school site is important to school districts for many reason. When a school district is receiving donated land or purchasing land, they are making decisions about property that will serve them for decades. What should school districts focus on when considering a purchase?

People look for the best price or low cost, but I advise clients to get the right location. Get the best site near or in the right location and then try and get the best price you can. Some developers will go to a district and donate land, but the site is in a corner, or it’s too small or it’s got topography issues. This means that sometimes the free sites are the most expensive to develop. We try to focus on the best site in the development, and sometimes it doesn’t work out with donated land.

What else are you looking for?

Location is one of the most important things. We’ll meet with demographers and see where the growth is coming from. We’ll then search and try to find a site or multiple sites that could work in the area. Once you’ve identified a site, there are several things to consider: acreage, type of school and amenities, net usable acres, etc. It’s a good time to bring in partners, such as a civil engineer, to assess the site and estimate costs for development.

Additional Advice

Some of the most challenging sites have been the free or the “best deal” sites. Focus on the best site first, and then work on price. Price is about 3-8 percent of the total cost of a school, so you are dealing with a relatively small component of overall price. It’s critical to get it right. Having the right partners (real estate agent, civil engineer, architect) up front will help you down the road. Being diligent is important to respecting your taxpayers.

To learn more about JLL, click here.

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
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MORE Momentum: Bond Market

By | News

Huckabee’s next three on-demand webinars highlight the state of the market in three key areas: Bond Sales / Financing, Real Estate and Construction. The first of this series looks at the school bond market and the impact of COVID-19 on bond sales. Our guest is Derek Honea of RBC Capital Markets, a financial advisor and underwriter for public school districts.

Derek walks through the current state of the municipal bond market and the impact to school districts who are looking to sell bonds, move up the sale of bonds or refinance, as well as those concerned about underlying credit ratings.

We’ve broken out each question for MORE Momentum #4: Bond Market below. You can view the webinar in its entirety by clicking here.

Introduction

What are you seeing in the bond market today with the impact of COVID-19?

It’s rare to see the municipal bond market shut down. School districts couldn’t access the capital markets, and it’s one of the only times in the past couple of decades that we’ve seen this, except for in 2008 / 2009. We are through that time now and getting back to normalcy.

Interest Rates + Moving up the Sale of Your Bonds

The municipal bond market essentially shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. Today, it’s open for business as usual and rates are steadily returning to at or near all-time lows. It’s an attractive time to lock-in a long-term rate.

Determining if it’s the right time to move up bond sales and take advantage of the rates is case-by-case. Typically, clients fall into two camps: Fast-growth districts who have strategically timed out their capital improvement plans and districts who have bond authorizations approved but have flexibility in their timing to sell. Things we consider in either case include impact to current rates, taxable assessed values, enrollment and the economy.

Interest Rates + Refinancing

We operate in two markets: Tax exempt and taxable interest rates. Both markets were shut down for awhile; tax exempt markets came back much sooner. The taxable market is just now returning to where we were in February, and we are seeing a lot of interest in refinancing taxable rates. These look really attractive, and we are generating a lot of debt-rate savings for school districts. If we can capture significant savings for clients, we will recommend that they refinance now.

Bond Market + Assessed Values

There is increased demand from investors for Permanent School Fund guaranteed paper, some of the highest credit bonds on the market. These are especially appealing given what’s occurring with corporate debt and corporate credits becoming distressed. We are seeing crossover buyers and European buyers investing in taxable bonds. Over the short term, we don’t see this demand decreasing. We are in a stable spot for interest rates over the next six months, although the presidential election could impact the market, including state and local debt.

In regards to taxable assessed values, we anticipate a large protest process which may impact certified values. Values for this school year were assigned before the pandemic; next year’s values will have fully accounted for its impact. We are advising clients who have flexibility in their sales to wait and see what the certified values look like. This gives you more data when structuring the debt. There may be ongoing impact in the coming years as well, and this is something for school districts to consider as they are developing bond programs.

Underlying Credit Ratings

Outside of local issues, RBC has been asked about the impact of COVID-19 to a district’s underlying credit rating, which could increase borrowing costs in the long-run. The rating agencies have put out a lot of information on what the impact could be, but we haven’t seen many credit rating downgrades for Texas school districts. This is something to keep an eye on as the impact of the pandemic continues to flow through the market.

Final Takeaways

The market is open, and school districts who have needs, have a plan in place and feel confident about their local economy can lock in historically-low interest rates. For those who have flexibility, it’s a good idea to stay in touch with your advisors and demographer to asses changes to enrollment, local economy and community needs.

To learn more about RBC Capital Markets, click here.

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

MORE Momentum: TxSSC

By | News

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. 

We’ve broken out each question for MORE Momentum #3: Texas School Safety Center below. You can view the webinar in its entirety by clicking here.

Introduction

The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) released the “Education Facilities COVID-19 Recovery / Re-opening Appendix,” that serves as an addendum to the Communicable Disease annex (as part of a school district’s Emergency Operations Plan). This new document focuses on COVID-19 and offers comprehensive guidance to school districts related to the re-opening of facilities and development of ongoing safety measures. Each section addresses the impact to facilities, transportation and people.

It’s important to note that each individual school district has an opportunity to develop a unique response to COVID-19, and the Appendix can be adapted to local needs and priorities. Every campus and every community is different, and the guidance offered by TxSSC is a starting point that will need to be vetted, modified and approved locally before becoming part of a school district’s approach to combatting the spread of COVID-19.

In this webinar, we talk through some of the strategies that are likely to have the greatest impact in mitigating COVID-19. We also speak with school district administrators and personnel to understand the challenges and questions that may arise while exploring these draft guidelines.

Our Guests: 

  • Kerri Ranney, VP of Educational Practice at Huckabee and member of the TxSSC Board
  • Jeff Caldwell, Associate Director of School Safety Readiness at TxSSC
  • Pat Fowler, Infectious Disease Control Consultant, Teel Consulting
  • Dr. Fred Brent, Superintendent, Georgetown ISD
  • Denisse Baldwin, Principal, Purl Elementary School, Georgetown ISD
  • LaToya Easter, Principal, East View High School, Georgetown ISD

Consideration: Masks

Wearing masks is a good example of a strategy that a school district could evaluate and modify based on the priorities of their community. Our guests talk through the value of wearing masks while also considering the challenges and impact of this option when working with a larger, and younger, population.

Considerations: General Facility

It is not likely that every campus can, or should, do everything recommended in TxSSC’s guiding document. It is imperative that each school district determine the feasibility of the recommendations related to their community. In this section, we talk through general facility considerations such as disinfecting efforts, the use of hand sanitizing stations, the use of plexiglass and guidance from the EPA.

Considerations: Main Entry Protocols

Entry and exit protocols will differ between elementary, middle and high schools, as well as urban, suburban or rural schools. Considerations for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 should complement, and not deter, gains school districts have made related to safety and security procedures. Whether considering the use of multiple entrances, staggered start times or other methods, school districts should attempt to find a balance between these varying needs.

Considerations: Classrooms

There are many ways for school districts to utilize the classroom and campus if social distancing is implemented. In this section, we explore guidance related to the use of classrooms and some of the considerations and questions that go hand-in-hand with creative utilization. For more information on this topic, email info@huckabee-inc.com to gain access to Huckabee’s TASA Summer Conference presentation: Campus Utilization—Adapting Space to Meet Multiple Needs. 

Considerations: Hallways

There are many methods for limiting crowding in hallways without removing key social / emotional aspects of school or impacting instructional time. In their COVID-19 Appendix, TxSSC offers guidance on numerous scenarios that can be considered by elementary, middle and high school campuses.

Considerations: Restrooms

Several things can be considered when addressing the spread of COVID-19 within restrooms, including the emphasis of good personal hygiene, education of hand washing and sanitizing protocols, and reduction of contact points needed for access.

Considerations: Cafeteria

Guidance from TxSSC within cafeteria and dining spaces focuses on keeping students and employees safe. Considerations for school districts include exploring where and how meals are served and the implications to staffing and process. TxSSC also offers the idea of using a local health department to analyze and provide recommendations for best practices.

Considerations: Extracurricular Activities

Community and campus spread may impact how school districts restructure and/or resume extracurricular activities.

Final Thoughts

With guidance from TxSSC and others, we hope school districts have a good idea for how to start the conversation and develop their own plan to return safely to school. If you would like to discuss the TxSSC document, how to develop your own priorities or explore campus utilization, please contact Huckabee at info@huckabee-inc.com.

For the full webinar, click below

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

More Momentum
Sending

MORE Momentum: Planning

By | News

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. 

We’ve broken out each question for MORE Momentum #2: Planning below. You can be view the webinar in its entirety by clicking here.

As we find a sense of normalcy, many unknowns remain, especially for Texas schools. Despite the challenges, school districts can use this time to their advantage. Suzanne Marchman, a Director of Client Communications at Huckabee, visits with Dr. Bill Chapman, Superintendent of Jarrell ISD, and Mike Vermeeren, Director of Planning at Huckabee, to discuss how to gain insight and value into your short and long-term needs. This on-demand webinar focuses on ways Jarrell ISD is being intentional with their construction, operations and planning efforts, as well as ways in which school districts can engage in long-range planning (and its benefits) within a virtual work environment.

Q1: Tell us about Jarrell ISD and your needs going into 2020. 

Jarrell ISD, located north of Austin, is growing at a quick pace with double digit increases in enrollment each year. Until 2007, it had a single K-12 school. Today, it has two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.

The 2019-2020 school year focused on the opening of Igo Elementary School, construction to Jarrell High School and master planning at multiple campuses to address long-term capacity and evolving needs. Projections prior to COVID-19 placed Jarrell at capacity at the elementary level in 2.5 years and at the middle and high school levels in four. A strategic planning process was set to begin after Spring Break to address future bonds, but it was pushed back to summer following the shut-down of schools.

“We were beginning to look at those long-term growth needs and undergoing a master planning piece at the middle and high school campuses. We wanted to see just what were the capacities of those buildings, what could we do to those buildings to maximize our space. We are blessed with 120 acres at the high school site; how big could I build that structure to meet the needs of Jarrell High School as we grow? Then we can say, here’s what it can be, and what do we want it to be. Same with the middle school.” – Dr. Bill Chapman, Jarrell ISD

Q2: What has changed for Jarrell ISD since COVID-19?

Despite uncertainty, Jarrell ISD has continued to experience an increase in enrollment. They anticipate growth to continue and are working with demographers and developers to examine the pace and how it will impact their bond cycle in the coming year. While construction won’t stop, a slow-down may afford the district time to back off their building spree, push a bond out further and dive deeper into their needs. 

“How do you plan for the future when the kids are here, but they’re not here. In Jarrell ISD, we are still seeing growth; our enrollment has increased during COVID-19. We were speeding along I-35 with our cruise control at 70 miles per hour, but now we’ve backed down to 30. It’s allowed us to back off and really see what our needs are going to be, what does it look like in November, do I have to have a November bond.” – Dr. Bill Chapman, Jarrell ISD

Q3: What are ways school districts can take advantage of this “pause” to be intentional? 

Mike Vermeeren suggests that this “pause” can be viewed as a grace period, a time to reflect and plan. Visioning, master planning and long-range planning can all occur during this time, potentially with greater engagement and participation. 

(1) Long-Range Planning—The foundational elements of long-range planning (facility assessments, educational standards and capacity / utilization) can be addressed even within our current situation. Empty buildings are ideal for facility assessments, and Huckabee has a method to conduct these that requires minimal personnel. To take it further, existing floorpans can be used as a base for utilization analysis; compared against TEA standards and your educational delivery methods, we can develop an educational adequacy report and capacity analysis that complements data gathering efforts.

“In terms of looking at growth needs, aging needs and evolving needs of education, we can do all of that right now. In terms of looking at the future, we are successfully conducting visioning meetings virtually with groups of 5-20. We can do that right now using fun and engaging methods.” – Mike Vermeeren, Huckabee

(2) Engagement—Virtual settings create more opportunity to connect with your internal stakeholders and/or community. Planning is often rushed; we see school districts spend a great deal of time collecting the goods related to educational and facility planning but then rushing through the buy in. If you’ve recently gone through a planning process, or are interested in starting, this is a good time to roll out your plan to your stakeholders and help them understand the need by finding ways to reach them where they are most comfortable. 

TIP: Planning doesn’t have to be complicated. Now is a great time to collect data and start building your case for aging conditions, growth and evolving needs. And, there are many ways (and benefits) to engage your community and stakeholders virtually.

Q4: What are the benefits of long-range planning?

Long-range planning provides school districts with a clear understanding of needs, which helps them move forward strategically. The process creates a roadmap for future success—5, 10 or 20 years into the future. It also creates milestones that “trigger” the next step in the process, ensuring your plan isn’t derailed. Trigger points can be tied to a number of factors, but commonly relate to growth rate and capacity; they are a mechanism that is used to indicate when planning for the next building project should begin. 

TIP: Work with your planning committee to develop “trigger points” to keep you on track when implementing a long-range plan. Trigger points indicate a milestone, typically related to growth and capacity, that prompt you to begin the next step in your process. 

Q5: What opportunities have emerged for Jarrell ISD?

Time is the greatest opportunity for Jarrell ISD. They have been able to slow down (or speed up in one aspect) to capitalize on opportunity in several aspects of their operations, including: 

(1) Construction—Jarrell ISD had a chance to accelerate phases in their high school construction project. Without students in the space, the contractor was able to access the library and cafeteria earlier than expected. Jarrell and the contractor capitalized on this opportunity; this shift has the potential to offset a busy construction period during August, when contractors are wrapping up projects as students return. 

(2) Energy Savings—With schools closed, Jarrell utilized this time to analyze energy costs across all buildings. They realized savings potential in their administration building—an older, and smaller, space with energy cost above a new elementary school. As a result, they are making changes that will result in long-term savings. It’s an area that may have been overlooked had the district not had this opportunity to examine existing processes. 

TIP: Explore opportunities with current and potential construction projects to take advantage of the current climate. Can you accelerate your timeline by giving contractors access to empty spaces? Or, can you push a project to bid in today’s favorable market?

TIP: Look for value. Be open to examination of process and operations. Don’t be afraid of change.

Q6: How has Jarrell ISD addressed planning needs during this pause? What are your successes? 

In Jarrell, like many other school districts, they are constantly working toward the next goal at breakneck speed. This pause gave them time to dig into their goals, analyze their successes and examine what the future may hold (and how they should react). Prior planning efforts and the opportunity to build on those successes will allow Jarrell to best serve their community in this changing environment. 

(1) Technology—A big focus for Jarrell is technology. The planning they’d done before COVID-19 set them up for success when learning went virtual. They were able to react quickly to support their 1:1 culture, expand WiFi at community schools and provide hotspots to families. The district plans to continue their efforts around technology planning and will start targeting teacher and staff development in their next phase. 

(2) Community Engagement—An unexpected boon that may elevate the district’s future approach to community engagement, is the success they found in virtual meetings. “One of the benefits of this is that we had the best attendance to a district improvement plan we’ve ever had because no one had to come to the building. We had a virtual meeting. We had more parent participation, and so maybe we keep looking at this. There is no reason why we can’t use Zoom or Google Hangouts, things that our teachers are using. It’s an unintended consequence in a good way.” – Dr. Chapman

(3) Educational Delivery—Finally, the pause gave Jarrell the opportunity to examine educational delivery and ask, “Why is it this way, does it need to be this way, what is something else we can do?” Dr. Chapman has encouraged a mindset that has allowed for growth without fear of failure—a way of thinking that allows for greater innovation, especially during a crisis. “We have to have that focus on everything we do, and not just this one time transition. I think this will give us a better mindset as we move forward as a district, as a leadership team and as a teaching staff.”  – Dr. Chapman

TIP: Virtual meetings have the potential to create broader engagement with your stakeholders and community. Consider how these can be used to generate feedback, buy-in and collaboration.

Final Thoughts

Despite the unknowns, there is a great deal of opportunity during this time to reflect, assess and plan for the future. In closing, here are a few considerations that have led to success for Jarrell ISD:

TIP: Know the variables, it will help you make better decisions. For Jarrell, growth is one of the key variables. In light of a shifting real estate climate, they’ve increased their demographic reports from bi-annually to quarterly and have stayed in touch with local developers. This gives them real-time and projected insight into the market.
TIP: Don’t look at things the way you’ve always looked at them. Use this time to refocus and set new goals and areas of attention to develop yourself and your district.
TIP: Know your community. Know what they can handle. And, take the time to understand what matters to them. That will help you make better decisions to meet their, and your, needs.
For the full webinar, click below

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

More Momentum
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Midway ISD CTE Expansion

By | Clients

Midway ISD and Huckabee started design on a CTE expansion to Midway High School. The first charrette brought together students, teachers and district staff to share ideas and discuss program needs. The project centralizes CTE classrooms and labs into a more modern space. It will create opportunities for greater collaboration between programs and students, while also supporting long-term growth in CTE offerings. To read more, click here.

2019 Caudill Award Winners

By | Clients

Congratulations to Mansfield ISD and Georgetown ISD, recipients of the prestigious Caudill Award. Huckabee had the rewarding and exciting opportunity to help these districts express their vision through two unique facilities. The Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners (MISD) and the Hammerlun Center for Leadership and Learning (GISD) are among four schools to earn the highest honor in this year’s competition. Each project received at least four Stars of Distinction in the Exhibit of School Architecture (EoSA), qualifying them for consideration in the Caudill class.

Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners

The new 54,340 sf early learning academy brings museum-level engagement to the school environment. Designed for 3- and 4-year olds, it is 100 percent hands-on learning. The school is arranged into four pods, each with four interactive learning experiences that are play-based but purposeful (each element ties into curriculum). The pods also contain a multi-use commons, outdoor courtyard and age-appropriate amenities.

Macro to micro, the design of the Jandrucko Academy draws on curiosity and a sense of community inherent in adults and children. While structured—from thoughtful adjacencies and symmetrical composition to well-defined curriculum—it embraces play, imagination and freedom for educators to design learning to suit personality. The school was holistically created, with the intent to impact students, teachers and the community while irreversibly changing the way early learning is expressed.

The project won four Stars of Distinction in the areas of Design, Community, Planning and School Transformation. To view the submission, click here.

Hammerlun Center for Leadership and Learning

The project is an adaptive re-use of a historic and iconic 1924 building. Formerly a high school, junior high and elementary school, today, it is Georgetown ISD’s administration building / center for leadership and learning. It focuses wholly on adult learning, redefining the look, feel and purpose of training space. The design is rooted in the district’s Learner Profile, emphasizing choice and voice. It draws on context and innovation, maintaining building integrity while creating progressive learning environments.

The Hammerlun Center was named in memory of Jerry Hammerlun, a long-time Georgetown community member and community leader. Jerry was passionate about mentoring future leaders and ensuring his community embraced the future while honoring the past. He played a critical role in the vision of the new administration building before his passing in June 2017

The project won five Stars of Distinction in the areas of Design, Value, Community, Planning and School Transformation. To view the submission, click here.

The EoSA is sponsored by Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards. It recognizes excellence in planning and design of the learning environment. The Caudill Award is named after Texas architect William Wayne Caudill (1914-1983). The architectural projects will be on display in the exhibit hall and the winners will be recognized at the 2020 TASA Midwinter Conference in Austin January 27-28.

School Safety Center Board

By | News

Kerri Ranney was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to the Texas School Safety Center Board. She is the first architect to be named to the 15-member board, and she joins fellow new appointees, Craig Bessent, Alan Trevino, Terry Deaver and Edwin Flores, Ph.D. The board reports to the Governor, the legislature, the State Board of Education, and the Texas Education Agency regarding school safety and security, and advises the center on its function, budget, and strategic planning initiatives. To learn more about recent appointees and sitting board members, click here.

Kerri is passionate about creating positive change through her work. She 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. She is a champion for Texas students and educators!

Exhibit of School Architecture

By | Clients

Congratulations to Godley ISD, Rockwall ISD, Georgetown ISD and Mansfield ISD, your vision for four unique projects has been recognized through the TASA/TASB Exhibit of School Architecture awards! The awards program showcases new and renovated Texas schools and celebrates excellence in planning and design of learning environments. Projects are awarded Stars of Distinction in up to six categories for Design, Value, Sustainability, Community, Planning and School Transformation. Our client and firm award winners include:

Godley High School  |  Godley ISD

Star of Distinction in the Community category

Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy  |  Rockwall ISD

Star of Distinction in the School Transformation Category

Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners  |  Mansfield ISD

Caudill Class finalist, Star of Distinction in the Design, Community, Planning and School Transformation categories

Hammerlun Center for Leadership & Learning  |  Georgetown ISD

Caudill Class finalist, Star of Distinction in the Design, Value, Community, Planning and School Transformation categories

The Jandrucko Academy and the Hammerlun Center also ranked among the top six award winners and are eligible for the prestigious Caudill Class award, which will be announced in early 2020. Eligible projects include those that receive four or more Stars of Distinction.

Congratulations to our clients and project teams!

#3 in Giants 300

By | News

Building Design + Construction’s “Giants 300” list was released, and Huckabee was named #3 K-12 architecture / engineering firm in the nation. We are thankful for the recognition, but even more thankful for the relationships we have with our clients and the incredible work they invite us to be a part of.

Education has been our purpose, our sole focus for over 52 years, and we are proud to be recognized for work that we find so meaningful. Our firm has experienced incredible growth over the past decade, in direct response to the needs of our clients and the trust they’ve bestowed on us. It is our honor and privilege to serve the educational community, and we extend our thanks to our partners across Texas. We wouldn’t be here with you!

Click here to see the full list. “Giants 300″ ranks architecture, engineering and construction firms across 20+ building sectors and services.

Kerri Ranney Named POY

By | News

The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) named Kerri Ranney, AIA, Esq., REFP, the 2019 Southern Region Planner of the Year (POY) at the annual conference in April. A surprise to Kerri, but no surprise to her colleagues and clients at Huckabee! Kerri’s Huckabee family joined her to celebrate the honor. 

Planner of the Year (POY) recognizes dedication and commitment to the growth and overall success of the region and industry. Kerri was nominated by her peers, followed by a committee review of her body of work, personal accomplishments and contributions. With the honor, Kerri will be considered for the International Lifetime Achievement Award competition in 2020.

“Besides being an incredible person, Kerri is the most genuine advocate I know for the planning process. She truly cares about helping clients get to the root of their needs. This diligence has delivered amazing outcomes for school districts time and time again. We are so proud of Kerri.”

Chris Huckabee, AIA, Chief Executive Officer

Kerri has a deep affection for Texas public schools and for the people who make them work day-in and day-out. She believes that the world’s toughest problems can be solved through education, and for Kerri, this means a commitment to help teachers and administrators think differently about how education is delivered and how space is designed. During her time at Huckabee, Kerri has been instrumental in establishing a meaningful and comprehensive planning process; in creating a research lab and subsequent studies focused on education; in working with clients to imagine the impossible; and in being a trusted advisor, mentor and friend to many people across the globe.

ABOUT KERRI

Kerri is Vice President of Educational Practice at Huckabee. She helps clients delve into educational planning, change management, instructional delivery and professional development. Kerri also leads Huckabee’s educational research initiative in partnership with Region 12 ESC and Baylor University.

Kerri joined Huckabee in 2013, bringing 13 years of experience in educational design. She was asked to lead the planning team and crafted the department around providing services that would help schools evolve the learning experience. Kerri’s work with school districts led to incredible innovation not just in the learning environment, but in how school districts approached professional development for educators.

When Huckabee opened an educational research lab, LEx Labs, at Baylor University in 2015, Kerri was instrumental in the long-term planning of the project. Since its opening, Kerri has worked with Huckabee’s research partners to complete four pilot studies and begin a longitudinal study focused on elementary education, flexible furniture and professional learning. Additionally, Kerri brings clients to LEx Labs to facilitate conversations about the future of education. She is a thought-leader in this discipline, and her contribution has allowed Huckabee to combine research, data and outcomes into school planning and design.

In 2016, Kerri joined Huckabee’s shareholder group, taking on an even greater role in establishing the firm’s direction for the future. She joined a team of shareholders that provide leadership to nearly 300 employees across six offices in Texas.

Today, Kerri continues to work with clients while also sharing her expertise with local, national and international audiences. She is actively involved in many professional organizations, including A4LE, and sits on and leads committees focused on school safety / security and educational standards. On a personal level, Kerri is actively involved in her local non-profit sector. She has a passion for organic farming and broadening access to nutritious and fresh options in “food deserts.” She currently serves as the Board Chair of Farmshare Austin, a non-profit organization focused on land preservation, food access and growing the next generation of organic farmers. In addition, she is the proud parent of Cash (10) and Tatum (9), and in her free time, enjoys earning Spartan trifectas.

It All Starts Here

By | News

“It All Starts Here” emphasizes the critical role public education plays in the future of Texas. Produced in partnership with TASA, the message stresses the importance of a shared commitment to education, along with focus on key issues such as full-day pre-K, better pay for all school employees, safety and security, and innovative programs. It is a reminder that an investment in education is an investment in the future of Texas. To learn more, click here.

C. Huckabee Elected TTUS Chairman

By | Higher Education

Christopher M. Huckabee, AIA, Chief Executive Officer of Huckabee, was elected Chairman of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents on March 21. Chris, a graduate of the Texas Tech College of Architecture, was appointed to the board in 2015 by Gov. Greg Abbott. He was named Vice Chairman in October 2018 and previously served on the Facilities and Investment Advisory committees.

He is joined by the new Vice Chairman of the Board of Regents, J. Michael Lewis, in addition to three new appointees (Ginger Kerrick, Mark Griffin and Dusty Womble).

“Congratulations to Chairman Huckabee and Vice Chairman Lewis on being elected by their fellow board members,” Texas Tech University System Chancellor and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center President Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell said. “I look forward to working closely with these outstanding leaders as we advance the Texas Tech System and each of our institutions. I would also like to thank Regent Tim Lancaster for his leadership and service to the board as chairman. I am grateful for all of our regents’ commitment to serving their alma maters.”

Both personally and professionally, Chris is an advocate for all students. He has served on multiple boards and committees to help further initiatives focused on education and youth. Prior to being named a regent, Chris was twice appointed to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board by Gov. Rick Perry, where he chaired the Agency Operations Committee. He also served as a board member of Cook Children’s Health Foundation and Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Currently, he is Chair Emeritus of the Board of the North Texas Community Foundation.

As CEO of Huckabee, an architecture / engineering firm, Chris further imparts a deep commitment to education. Under his leadership, Huckabee has become one of the top educational design firms in the nation. The firm focuses exclusively on learning environments and serves clients in the areas of early childhood, K-12, higher education and community-based education.

Chris will begin his work as Chairman of the Board of Regents immediately. Of his appointment, Chris said: “There’s a lot of work left to do, and we need to put our heads down and do that. I’d like to say thank you to the governor for naming three great regents that are going to add to us immediately and excel us down the road.”

Hammerlun Center Dedication

By | Clients

February 5 was a celebratory day for Georgetown ISD as they officially “opened” their new administration and training center in one of the district’s historic buildings. Huckabee team members joined the Georgetown community for a ribbon cutting, tours of the campus and one very special dedication.

GISD’s administration center is named after Jerry Hammerlun—an icon in the Georgetown community, a beloved former colleague of the Huckabee team and a fierce advocate for education. Jerry was passionate about mentoring future leaders and ensuring his community embraced the future while honoring the past. He played a critical role in the vision of the new administration building before his passing in June 2017.

Photo credit Jerrod Wittman, “The Bearded Wonder”

The Hammerlun Center for Leadership and Learning serves as home-base for more than 100 district employees. It is a collaborative and innovative learning space for educators, featuring office space plus a state-of-the-art professional development center that emphasizes flexibility, choice and collaboration. District employees have access to maker spaces, professional learning labs, planning rooms and more. Their space mimics those that are found in their schools.

From the start, GISD wanted to preserve the history of the building. The Hammerlun Center was built in 1924 and was the original home to Georgetown High School, later serving as the district’s middle school, and most recently, Williams Elementary School. Huckabee worked diligently to pay respect to the architecture of the period while reflecting the current culture of learning in GISD. The exterior remains largely unchanged while the interior blends a more industrial and professional aesthetic.

The opening of the Hammerlun Center represents the culmination of a years-long effort to redefine learning in Georgetown ISD. It’s a one-of-a-kind campus that is truly reflective of the way GISD wishes to engage students, educators and administrators within an exciting and supportive learning culture.

Photo credit Jerrod Wittman, “The Bearded Wonder”

Wagner MS Caudill Class

By | Clients

George Wagner Middle School in Georgetown ISD was named a finalist for the Caudill Class, the highest honor awarded as part of the TASA / TASB Exhibit of School Architecture competition. The school received four Stars of Distinction in Design, Community, Planning and School Transformation. Within the same district, Purl Elementary School received three Stars of Distinction, situating GISD as the only school district with two recognitions for 2018-2019.

Wagner Middle School opened in 2017. It’s a beautiful and exciting campus that is playing a critical role in Georgetown ISD’s evolution toward choice, customization and innovation in instruction. The design was the result of a comprehensive planning process that unified ideas from school leaders, community members, students and educators. Huckabee is honored to share this incredible recognition with the many people who imagined what Wagner could become.

The configuration of the school emphasizes choice and shared learning. Academics are split into “dens” for 6th grade, STEM and humanities. Each den features classrooms, labs, flex space, a teacher design lab and outdoor patio. The district removed classroom ownership to support more collaborative and customized instruction, requiring the dens to be highly adaptable and suitable for use by multiple teachers with a variety of curriculum needs and student learning styles.

Dens surround a 2-story commons that brings learning, socialization, assembly and collaboration together into one space. The team prioritized transparency as a way to promote personal responsibility for students and passive supervision for teachers. They adopted a use for all common areas and corridors by using furniture to maximize space for learning.

Wagner Middle School is progressive not just in design, but in how educators approach instruction. The learning environment supports autonomy, trust, responsibility and a more project-based approach. The enthusiasm for learning is noticeable in the way students buzz around the building, accessing every nook and cranny to design their learning experience.

About the Exhibit of School Architecture

Wagner Middle School is one of four Huckabee projects to be recognized in the Exhibit of School Architecture competition. GISD’s Purl Elementary School also received multiple Stars of Distinction in the categories of Community, Planning and School Transformation. Fort Bend ISD’s James Patterson Elementary School and Kaufman ISD’s Kaufman High School received recognition for School Transformation.

The Exhibit of School Architecture awards are given at the discretion of a 12-member jury, which includes: four school board members, four administrators, two representatives from the Texas Society of Architects and two representatives from the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE). To be eligible for consideration for the 2018 Exhibit of School Architecture, projects had to be newly constructed or renovated public education facilities completed in the past five years.

About the Caudill Class

The Caudill Class is reserved for projects that received four or more Stars of Distinction. It is the TASA / TASB Exhibit of School Architecture’s highest recognition and is named after Texas architect William Wayne Caudill (1914–1983), whose progressive concepts continue to influence school design. Winners will be announced in January.

Exhibit of School Architecture

By | Clients

Huckabee is excited to announce that Fort Bend ISD’s James Patterson Elementary School, Kaufman ISD’s Kaufman High School, Georgetown ISD’s Annie Purl Elementary School and Georgetown ISD’s George Wagner Middle School received Stars of Distinction for the TASA / TASB Exhibit of School Architecture competition. It’s a recognition we are proud to share with our incredible partners! The awards highlight excellence in planning and design of learning environments.

Patterson Elementary School and Kaufman High School received recognition for School Transformation. Purl Elementary School received Stars of Distinction for Community, Planning and School Transformation. Wagner Middle School received the highest honor, being noted in the categories of Design, Community, Planning and School Transformation and qualifying for the prestigious Caudill Class. Notably, Georgetown ISD was the only school district to receive honors for multiple schools.

Finalists in the Caudill Class are selected based on receiving four or more Stars of Distinction. The award is the highest level of recognition for the competition and is named after influential Texas architect William Wayne Caudill (1914-1983). The winner will be announced in January.

About the Award-Winning Projects

Each of these schools was the result of a thoughtful planning and design process, and each feature unique attributes that inspire, excite and influence learning.

Patterson Elementary School in Fort Bend ISD is a LEED certified campus. The design creates a more engaging and collaborative space, where students and teachers break out of the classroom for instruction. “Learning pockets” are found throughout, from the 2-story library with flexible furniture, to bench seating in corridors, collab space in classroom wings and an outdoor garden and patio.

Kaufman High School underwent a complete transformation. Multiple buildings were brought under a single roof with unifying elements such as an open and collaborative bistro / library / commons. A new performing arts center, competition gymnasium and CTE wing established a more comprehensive campus. Notably, CTE programs were elevated with the inclusion of a state-of-the-art culinary kitchen, robotics labs and television studio.

The design of Purl Elementary School is inspired by the nearby town square. Classroom wings surround a high-volume commons in the same way storefronts surround the county courthouse, creating a central hub of activity. While interior finishes, furniture and function take a modern form, exterior detailing borrows from the aesthetic of the community’s historic buildings. This community-driven school also features a unique volunteer lab in the secure entry vestibule.

At Wagner Middle School, the configuration emphasizes choice and shared learning. Students have a home base in one of three “dens” for STEM, humanities and 6th grade. They have the ability to spill out from dens into collaborative workspace, outdoor space, the commons, corridors, a maker space and the library. Transparency is critical to the model, and the design of classrooms, teacher design labs and common areas emphasize sightlines and connectivity.

The award-winning projects, along with other projects submitted, will be displayed at the TASA / TASB Exhibit of School Architecture at the annual convention on Sept. 28-30 in Austin. To learn more, visit www.texasschoolarchitecture.org.

About the Exhibit of School Architecture

The Exhibit of School Architecture awards are given at the discretion of a 12-member jury, which includes: four school board members, four administrators, two representatives from the Texas Society of Architects and two representatives from the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE). To be eligible for consideration for the 2018 Exhibit of School Architecture, projects had to be newly constructed or renovated public education facilities completed in the past five years.

Huckabee Profiled by AIA

By | News

AIA National featured Huckabee in its most recent newsletter, interviewing our CEO, Chris Huckabee, about how our focus on education led to record growth over the past couple of decades. In the article entitled, “This Texas firm survived a downturn by solving problems beyond design,” Chris shares about Huckabee’s culture of learning, our commitment to Texas education and how innovation in our service offerings led to more opportunity. Read the article, here.

Huckabee Opens New Office

By | News

We’re excited to announce the re-opening of our Huckabee Dallas office, located in Granite Park in Plano, a vibrant live, work, play community. The location is near the epicenter of booming development in North Dallas and provides easy access to our clients across the region. It is the latest of our office spaces to be redesigned and relocated to meet the needs of our team and our partners. Our new base provides us with more space to grow, more space to collaborate, more space to engage with clients and more space to gather and enjoy a cup of coffee.

“The opportunity to grow in this way, to offer these environments to our team and our clients is a direct result of their shared work and commitment to Texas education,” said Josh Brown, Vice President and Director of Dallas. “We practice what we preach. Schools today are more collaborative and more personalized than ever. Our efforts to re-think our work environments embrace the same ideals we talk to our clients about—shared experiences, flexibility, opportunity and a holistic approach.”

In true Huckabee style, the design embraces our brand in form and function. From the signature neon “More Than Architects” sign and pops of red to an open work environment, sit-to-stand desks and a custom crit bar. A coffee bar sits up front, leading into a large workspace with floor to ceiling views. A premium is placed on shareable spaces that feature writable surfaces, technology and comfortable seating. Environmental graphics, signage and design touches elevate the space. Reflective film lines the glass of each conference room, creating a spectrum of colors that change as you move.

Above all, the space represents Huckabee’s commitment to creative and engaging work environments; places where Huckabee-ans and our partners can be inspired.

“Our workspaces are important to us,” said Josh. “They are places for our team and our clients to bring their ideas to life. We have a very connected and collaborative culture; it’s one of the first things you recognize when you walk into any one of our offices.”

Huckabee has offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, in addition to an educational research facility at Baylor University. The Dallas office is located at Granite Park Building 5, 5830 Granite Parkway, Suite 750 in Plano, Texas.