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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Emily Oberlin, FWCS Teacher of the Year, spoke about her passion for teaching at Monday night’s board meeting.

FWCS to save on fix-up projects

Funds could be used on alternative work

School leaders heard Monday that Fort Wayne Community Schools are “in good shape” for completing dozens of projects for about $8.8 million less than expected.

Darren Hess, director of facilities for FWCS, and project coordinators presented an update on construction projects being completed with the voter-approved $119 million building project.

“I’m very happy to report to the board tonight that the program is within budget,” Hess said. “… We are in good shape for funding to carry us through.”

Projects completed throughout the summer included renovations to Snider High School and the creation of modular classrooms; renovations at Memorial Park Middle School and Harrison Hill Elementary; window replacements; site improvements; chiller additions; and roof replacements.

On Monday, Hess said the district’s decision to provide conservative estimates for the projects and savings along the way resulted in nearly $9 million in unused funds.

The district has a balance of $60,190,369, and the estimate for completing projects scheduled for 2014 and 2015 is $51,402,833.

Chief Financial Officer Kathy Friend confirmed Hess’s estimated savings, but cautioned board members to wait until all projects had been completed to determine how much of the money would remain.

After the projects have been completed, the board could either move forward on the alternative projects that were outlined in the proposal that taxpayers approved in May 2012 or return the funds to taxpayers as a tax savings, Hess said.

Going forward, planned 2014 projects include renovations at Bloomingdale, Harris, Croninger and Irwin elementary schools; window and roof replacements; and a renovation to Snider High School’s kitchen and lunch service area.

The remaining projects include renovations to Haley and Weisser Park elementary schools; improvements to Jefferson Middle School; and window and roof replacements. Those are expected to be completed in 2015.

The district will pay off the first series of bonds through tax increases in 2013 and 2014. The increases are not to exceed more than $27 per year for a $100,000 home.

School officials last year estimated it would take at least three years to spend the $119 million.

Teachers honored

Also on Monday, the board honored 2013 Teacher of the Year Emily Oberlin.

Oberlin, a world history teacher at South Side High School, is known for her creative ways of teaching and engaging students, board members said.

“Emily Oberlin is a shining example of what it means to be a teacher today,” Superintendent Wendy Robinson said. “Our best teachers don’t just share information with students, they engage them, they challenge them and they teach them how to be productive, responsible citizens.”

During the board meeting, Oberlin received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 50 people.

She thanked district and building leaders for their support and for encouraging teachers to take ownership of their school.

“I’m kind of a big dork… I’ll be honest,” Oberlin said. “I try to encourage our staff to participate in activities so that our kids want to be involved with us because I truly believe that if kids have a relationship with you, they’ll want to come to school and to your class and they’ll want to learn from you.

“So if you can foster that relationship in the classroom and outside the classroom, it’s going to help us all around. It’s going to pull us all together.”

The board also recognized four finalists:

•Jenny Barney, a fifth-grade teacher at Glenwood Park Elementary School

•Estelle Griggs, a third-grade teacher at Forest Park Elementary School

•Carissa Richardson, former science teacher at Northwood Middle School and now a New Tech Towles teacher

•Wendy Wichern, a social studies teacher at Blackhawk Middle School