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MORE Momentum: Technology

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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.

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Reappointed to TxSSC Board

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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

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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

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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.

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MORE Momentum: Real Estate

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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

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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!
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MORE Momentum: Bonds

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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.

Megan Smith, Director of Client Communications, sits down with Tim McClure, Assistant Superintendent for Facilities in Northwest ISD, and Russ Gage, a Northwest ISD parent and Long Range Planning Committee member, in a 30-minute virtual chat about NISD’s postponed $986.6 million May bond election and what both the district and community are doing to keep momentum during this unprecedented time.

The conversation provides insight on steps they are taking to stay ahead of planning, continue to communicate with stakeholders, and prepare for a November election. Whether you have also delayed your bond election to November, were considering calling one in the next year or are in the middle of executing a current bond program, tune in for strategies you may find helpful to apply in your district.

Click the MORE Momentum image below for more takeaways on this topic.

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

More Momentum
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Kate Dunfee Named Outstanding Mentor

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Huckabee’s Kate Dunfee, AIA, RID, was recently honored as a 2020 ENR – ACE Outstanding Mentor. In a national competition that identifies exceptional mentors in the ACE program, a jury selected Kate and five other individuals who have profoundly impacted students and peers. Those who know Kate describe her as an incredible advocate for education, someone who makes consistent efforts to promote learning culture.

The ACE program supports students who are interested in careers in the architecture, construction and engineering industry—offering opportunities for students to connect with mentors, complete relevant projects and qualify for scholarships. Many of the students who participate are underrepresented populations or first-generation college students.

“This past year, almost 5,000 mentors worked with close to 10,000 students across the nation,” an ACE representative stated. “Studies have shown that two-thirds of ACE students enter college with plans to study architecture, engineering or construction. This is because of the passion and dedication of volunteers like Kate.”

Kate will be featured in an upcoming ENR – ACE publication, and a scholarship will be awarded to a local ACE student in her name.

ABOUT KATE

Kate is a Project Architect and has worked at Huckabee for the last 15 years. In her role, she helps bring projects through the full life cycle of production—leading her team from design through construction documents, specifications, bidding and construction administration.

Kate believes in the power of education, and she leads internal and external efforts to enhance learning for all ages. Whether she’s working with students from local districts or coordinating mentorship opportunities for Huckabee employees, Kate invests heavily in others. The Huckabee team is proud of the work she’s done and knows Kate is well-deserving of this recognition.

School Safety Center Board

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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!

#3 in Giants 300

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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.

Ranked #37 in Architectural Record

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Huckabee has been ranked No. 37 this year on the Architectural Record magazine Top 300 Architectural Firms list, moving up seven points from 2018. We are proud to serve students, educators and communities through our work, and we are honored that because of their trust, we have a platform to help improve education for all while excelling in our industry.

At Huckabee, we are committed to, and known for, design innovation, technical excellence and personal service. We have exclusively served educational clients in Texas for 52 years, completing over 3,500 projects and greatly impacting students and educators.

Click here to view the full list of Architectural Record magazine Top 300 Architectural Firms.

Huckabee Ranked in ENR Top 500

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Huckabee once again ranked amongst Engineering News Record’s Top 500 Design Firms, climbing 13 spots to #221. The list ranks A/E firms across the nation based on revenue for design services performed in the previous year. Huckabee has continued to grow and expand our presence across Texas in recent years. We currently have over 260 employees—representing a holistic set of services—across six offices. Notably, our San Antonio office relocated in the past year to a new, larger space that reflects our dedication to creative and engaging work environments. We also held a multi-day staff retreat called CampACE, which focused on culture, professional development and community excellence.

At Huckabee, we are committed to, and known for, design innovation, technical excellence and personal service. We have exclusively served educational clients in Texas for 52 years, completing over 3,500 projects and greatly impacting students and educators. Our commitment to Texas education has led Huckabee to be a leader in learning environments and a trusted advisor to many. We are honored to serve students, educators and communities, and we will continue to focus on doing and being MORE for our clients.

Click here to view the full list of ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms.

Red for Ed

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On May 9th, Huckabee employees across Texas wore red to show our support of public schools. Red for Ed is a nationwide effort that raises awareness about public school legislation and funding.

At Huckabee, our heart is in education. So today and every day, Huckabee will stand with educators across our great state to support a bright future for all students. To learn more about Red for Ed, please click here to visit the National Education Agency’s website.

Kerri Ranney Named POY

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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

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“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.

Huckabee celebrates 2018

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Huckabee celebrated another great year with our annual Christmas festivities. Not one, not two, but three parties took place for our teams across Texas. More than 400 combined guests—which included employees from our five offices and their loved ones—gathered to enjoy food, fun and togetherness.

This is one of our favorite times of the year, a time when we reflect on the incredible people we’ve met, projects we’ve embarked on and experiences we’ve shared. At each party, there was a deep sense of gratitude in the air. As a firm, we are so thankful for each other, for an incredible 2018 and for the opportunity we have to promote the success of all students.

During the events, our team honored employees for years of service and achievement. Notably, Huckabee recognized Josh Brown, Vice President and Director of Dallas, and Will Smith, Associate Principal, for 15 years of service. Josh and Will have held multiple roles within Huckabee, both providing impact to our team and clients.

Congratulations to Josh, Will and all of our colleagues who were recognized for their years of service!

  • Josh Brown, 15 years of service
  • Will Smith, 15 years of service
  • Devin Wilson, 10 years of service
  • Brian Eilerts, five years of service
  • Matthew Perez, five years of service
  • Becky Petter, five years of service
  • Heather Bryce, five years of service
  • Jason Andrus, five years of service
  • Mike Vermeeren, five years of service
  • Ray Dameron, five years of service
  • Hans Schmidt, five years of service
  • Josh Gomez, five years of service
  • Ricardo Davalos, five years of service
  • Konrad Judd, five years of service
  • David Anderson, five years of service
  • Kerri Ranney, five years of service
  • Crystal Vasquez, five years of service
  • Kenny Martin, five years of service
  • Walter Medrano, five years of service
  • Heather Barksdale, five years of service
  • John Papa, five years of service
  • Susan Carter, five years of service

This year, Mike Hall, our Austin Director of Design, was honored with the Huckabee Achievement Award; this prestigious award recognizes an individual who is characterized by their dedication to our clients and our team. Mike embodies our core values; he consistently demonstrates exceptional client focus and always looks to improve our firm.

This year’s WHOA Award was bestowed on Jeff Bryant, Regional Structural Engineer, in Fort Worth. The WHOA Award is a special distinction that recognizes an individual who “took hold of the reins” and expertly guided the team with wisdom, integrity and spirit; the award honors the legacy of Jerry Hammerlun, a dear colleague and friend who left us too early in 2017. Jeff was critical to our team this year, and we were pleased to recognize his unwavering integrity, ability to manage challenges and commitment to excellence.

Zweig Group Trifecta Award

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For the second year in a row, Huckabee is one of a few companies to earn Zweig Group’s esteemed Trifecta Award. This honor recognizes companies that have won Hot Firm, Best Firms to Work For and Marketing Excellence awards within the same year.

The Hot Firm Award recognizes firms that are rapidly growing in the architecture, engineering and planning industry. Huckabee moved up the list this year, coming in at #7. See the full list of Hot Firms here.

The Best Firms to Work For Award recognizes outstanding work environments and company culture by utilizing employee surveys and corporate evaluations to determine rankings. This year, Huckabee proudly placed third in the architecture category – a testament to our dedication to being more for our team. We place great emphasis on excellence in everything we do, and this means investing in our team, our offices and our culture.

To round out the Trifecta, Huckabee also won a Marketing Excellence Award for our internal 50th anniversary campaign. 2017 was a year of celebration, togetherness, recognition and re-affirmation that the first 50 years were just the beginning! Some of our favorite components of the campaign included a swag-grab kick-off event, a series of “50 Flair” buttons for employees to earn through participation in 50th anniversary events, a “What’s Your 50?” mini-campaign allowing employees to elaborate on what this milestone means to them, special Huckabean anniversary beverages from our coffee bar, a “Be More” program that awarded $50,000 to employees for growth and professional development opportunities and a “Huckapalooza” anniversary bash with employees and their families.

We are excited to share this accomplishment with every member of our team as we embark on the next 50 years. Interested in joining our team? Visit www.morethanaworkplace.com to view our current opportunities.

Huckabee Profiled by AIA

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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.