The Archbold Area School Board voted to pay Aaron Godwin of The Renaissance Group up to $80,000 for consulting services in connection with the ongoing study of wind energy at its Monday, Jan. 11 board meeting.
The vote came after a long discussion and review of the wind project, which started in 2006.
Four members of the wind team– Paul Nafziger, engineer, Bob Aschliman, former school board president, Laura Bickel, teacher in the school district, and Bea Briggs, a retired teacher– discussed the workings of the team.
The group has been working with Godwin, but the school district has no contract for his services. David Deskins, school district superintendent, said Godwin had been paid as the group has moved along.
In a special meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 6, the board approved a contract with The Renaissance Group to act as a consultant during the construction of a wind turbine, and authorized a spending limit of $80,000.
The board passed the measure as an emergency action because of time restraints imposed by some grants the school has received. If the issue had not been passed as an emergency, consulting services would have been bid. If bidding was required, the district could not meet the deadlines.
But, while the school board has grants for about $1.1 million of the $1.5-million cost of a wind turbine, an actual decision to go ahead with the project has not been made.
Tony Warncke, board member, had several questions about the decisionmaking process. He outlined three criteria to use in making the decision whether or not to build a wind turbine.
Financial issues were the first area, which he described as “more cut and dried.”
Education issues were the second area. He asked how a wind turbine would fit into the school’s educational plans.
The third issue was how the wind turbine would fit in the school’s “brand,” or “image.”
Briggs said a new initiative from the state will include requirements for teaching alternative energy topics to students, and a wind turbine would fit.
“Educationally, we’re headed down that road,” Briggs said.
In addressing the branding issue, Briggs said Archbold schools have always been a leader in new teaching techniques and new technologies.
Deskins said the district cannot continue to explore the wind turbine option without Godwin’s help, and Godwin needs a contract in place to continue working with the district.
“He holds the key,” Deskins said.
He said Pettisville, which also is investigating a wind turbine, has set aside $10,000 to pay Godwin.
Scott Miller, board president, said he believed the wind project is still worthwhile.
“We need to take the next step forward, or we need to stop,” he said.
Jon Lugbill, board member, made a motion to authorize Deskins to pay The Renaissance Group according to the Jan. 6 resolution. Phil Nofziger, board member, seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
John Downey, president of the Archbold Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers, attended the meeting to discuss a memorandum of understanding in connection with the Ohio Department of Education’s application for a federal Race To The Top grant.
If Ohio receives an RTTP grant, money would come from the federal government’s economic stimulus program. Up for grabs is $400 million in federal money.
School officials were required to sign a memorandum of understanding with the AEA, and present it to the ODE by Jan. 8.
The board approved the memorandum at the Jan. 6 meeting.
However, the board did not agree to sign a separate memorandum proposed by the AEA.
Downey said the AEA had obtained its draft memorandum from their labor relations consultant.
Warnke said the board’s main concern was with Item Two, a passage in the AEA’s memorandum allowing both sides to back out of the agreement at any time.
Warncke said the AEA memorandum would allow the AEA membership to back out of the agreement after the school board had committed to a Race To The Top grant project.
Downey said he had presumptively presented the AEA’s memorandum to the AEA membership, assuming the board would sign it if the AEA signed the board’s version. He noted the teachers had approved signing the memorandum by a 28-25 vote.
He said Item 2 would give both sides “peace of mind,” and hoped it “would not be a deal breaker.”
During the Jan. 6 meeting, board members re-elected Miller the board president, and voted Warncke vice president and Ohio School Board Association legislative liaison. Janet Wyse was named student achievement liaison with OSBA.
The next board meeting is Monday, Feb. 15, 7 pm, in the Archbold High School media center. –David Pugh