Work and recommendations of the Bond Oversight Committee
After the bond election, in order to ensure complete and total transparency to the Coppell ISD community and taxpayers, the Board of Trustees voted to form a Bond Oversight Committee with the charge of “serving in an advisory capacity to the CISD School Board and Administration over the next 5 years to ensure project work remains faithful to the priorities and planning of the 2016 Community Bond Steering Committee”. The objectives of the committee were and are as follows:
- Provide accountability to the community by ensuring projects remain faithful to the priorities and projects approved on May 7, 2016 and any additional outstanding bond funds from the voter-approved May 11, 2013 bond.
- Educate and inform Coppell community members on the progress of bond projects.
- Provide advice and input from the community to the Board of Trustees on how to provide the best value to the taxpayers of the Coppell ISD.
- Review project timelines and financial reports, track budgets and amounts remaining for each project.
- Provide reports to the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees
The Committee is comprised of fourteen (14) community members and two (2) school board members. One co-chair was elected by the Committee from the Committee membership. One co-chair is a current school board member, appointed by the Board. The Committee community members were selected through an application process and served a minimum term of three years. Most original members have remained on the committee throughout the five-year bond program.
Seven members from the community were chosen by the Board of Trustees, and seven members plus two alternates were selected by the Superintendent of Schools based on their application. Alternates are non-voting members, but were encouraged to attend all meetings. The Committee membership is comprised of community members with relevant expertise in fields such as finance, construction, project management, technology, and education. The Committee members were also selected to represent the district geographically. In selecting this committee, there was a goal of balancing relevant skills and broad community representation.
Over the five-year period, the committee met three to four times a year with the first meeting being held on September 12, 2016. During 2020 and 2021, meetings were limited due to COVID-19 pandemic. Two meetings were held virtually during this time. At each meeting, minutes from the prior meeting were discussed and approved. Then, comprehensive updates were given by district staff regarding the progress and timelines of the projects. At each meeting, an area would be chosen to go into greater detail. For example, at about every third meeting the technology department would give a comprehensive presentation regarding technology expenditures, infrastructure upgrades, device replacements, timelines, etc. At other meetings, the architect would present to highlight the plans for various new construction projects. After each presentation, the committee had the opportunity to ask questions and ask for additional information. Finally, at the end of each meeting, a comprehensive spreadsheet was shared with each committee member detailing all projects by campus including budget, actual cost, under/over budget, actual and anticipated completion date, plus any other pertinent information. Again, the committee members were given the opportunity to ask questions and ask for further clarification. The following is a link to the spreadsheet discussed above:
The Bond Oversight Committee was extremely involved and inquisitive as to the success of the projects. In summary, they were ensuring three very important questions could be answered and shared with the Coppell ISD taxpayers.
- Is the district completing all the projects promised to the community?
- Is the district being fiscally responsible and staying within the dollars authorized and allocated?
- Is the district following a reasonable timeline for completion of the projects given the student growth and other educational needs of the district?
As can be seen in the 2016 Bond Project Tracking Spreadsheet, over the five-year life of the $249 million bond program, only one project was over the original budget. This was the external parking lot LED lighting replacements at all campuses (Project #15). This was a $1.1 million project that was $90,000 over budget. Prior to awarding this project, the Board of Trustees approved an increase in scope of this project by adding additional stadium-like lighting to the Coppell High School band parking lot. This additional scope, not in the original project list, would allow the band to practice marching at earlier and/or later times. The remainder of the projects are at or under budget as of the date of this writing by over $19.5 million. These savings will be discussed and explained in greater detail in Section VIII.
One very important request by the BOC to the Board of Trustees was asking for a comprehensive financial audit on a major new construction project. While there were no construction issues or concerns, the committee felt that in the spirit of complete transparency to the Coppell ISD taxpayers, it would be a prudent process to conduct a thorough audit. The construction of the new 205,000 square foot Coppell Middle School West in Cypress Waters was chosen for audit by the Board of Trustees. This was a $54,975,000 budgeted project. An outside third-party audit firm that specializes in new construction audits was chosen. This audit was very thorough and included the review of all contracts and financial records from the school district as well as from the general contractor and subcontractors. It was a several week process that involved hundreds of hours of work from both the district and the general contractor in supplying the requested information to the audit firm and answering their questions. Once the audit was complete and all questions had been answered, the audit was very clean with no adverse findings. In fact, after the project was entirely complete and closed, the project came in about $6 million under the $54.9 million budget.
The Bond Oversight Committee was a very necessary and valuable part of the 2016 bond program in terms of helping ensure complete transparency to the community. Their insight and questions always encouraged district staff to carefully track all components of the bond and each project. Their time, expertise, and long-term commitment are greatly appreciated. The following are quotes from some of the committee members regarding their thoughts on the committee:
Bond Oversight Committee Member Rosie Stevens
"It was enlightening and rewarding to serve on the Bond Oversight Committee. The committee received very detailed information and the district was always willing to dive deeper into the specific aspects of projects to ensure that we all felt satisfied with the progress of the expenditures. The enthusiasm in the committee that started on day 1 was still there at the end of year 5."
Bond Oversight Committee Member James Shay
“The work of the CISD Bond Committee (made up of community members) was a remarkable five-year sustained effort on the part of both CISD Board and Staff and our community to give transparency and accountability to the voters of Coppell ISD. At every step of the way the Bond Committee’s input was respected, embraced, and then put into action. It has been a tremendous amount of work, but very rewarding knowing that the interests of the voters of Coppell ISD, the CISD Bond Committee, and CISD Staff and Board were all aligned throughout the process.”
Bond Oversight Committee Member Ashley Wallace
“My husband and I moved to Coppell as first-time homeowners in the summer of 2015 for the school district (with plans to have children), the family-friendly community, and the location. Honestly, I knew only the basics about local politics and little about local government finances. Our first local Coppell election included the 2016 bond election. From February to May, I worked hard to educate myself on how school finances work and about Coppell ISD's approach, using official resources from the CISD webpage, the candidate forums, and the Board meetings. Honestly, I walked away concerned about some of what was in the proposed bond and with questions about the most recent bond. When the bond passed by about 20 votes, I knew I was not alone. Thankfully, the school district acknowledged the close vote and acted swiftly by announcing the formation of the Bond Oversight Committee. Without hesitation, I completed an application eager to understand and hopeful that I could be a part of contributing to the success of the CISD, a major factor in why we picked our home.
Over the last five years, I have appreciated CISD's commitment to the Committee and their transparency with us. CISD gave us access to district employees at many levels for these after-hours meetings. Everyone who presented came prepared and answered all our questions thoroughly. When we asked for certain topics on the agenda, they were added. When we made recommendations, they were shared with the Board, and several were actioned, including finding a transparent tracking approach of all originally committed to projects and the construction audit of the new school build. Beyond that, I appreciate all I learned while on the Committee, which will benefit me as a community member, voter, and parent (of two now) going forward.”