Schools notebook // Headquarters plan

School Board approves North Side headquarters plan

After delaying its decision for two weeks to allow for more public discussion, the School Board voted April 27 to move ahead with plans to build a new district headquarters on the North Side.

Three finalists were vying to either construct a new headquarters or renovate the current one, a former lightbulb factory located at 807 Broadway St. NE. The winning proposal from Mortenson Development, Inc. and Legacy Management and Development Corporation calls for razing the former Broadway High School and constructing a new office building on the district-owned property at 1250 W. Broadway Ave.

Board members faced some criticism for approving new construction at a time when declining enrollment was forcing school closures. Parent Ahndi Fridell said the district’s “most exciting new building project in years” should be a high-tech high school, not an office building.

In voting against the plan, School Board members Carla Bates and Jill Davis echoed concerns that spending on office space and not schools would send the wrong message. They both urged a delay until district staff completed a long-awaited master facilities plan.

Still, district staff in recent weeks emphasized the need to act quickly, while construction and financing costs were low. Prior to the vote, Superintendent Bill Green reminded Board members the district was paying to maintain four administrative buildings with twice the necessary office space, at a cost of about $1 million per year.

“The cost of doing nothing is substantially more expensive than building or renovating new administrative offices,” Green said.

He said a new, more-efficient office building would save the district an estimated $15 million to $17 million over the next 30 years when compared to staying put at 807 Broadway St. NE. The savings could be higher if the district acts fast enough to take advantage of tax credits included in a federal economic stimulus plan, he added.

Staying at 807 has additional costs. The building requires millions of dollars in deferred maintenance just to “keep it habitable,” Green said.

Board Chair Tom Madden, who, with four other Board members approved the plan 5-2, expected that spending on a new headquarters now would free up resources in the future.

“We have to make decisions that will buy us money down the road,” Madden said.

———

Miller Music Fest at Washburn

Three Washburn High School graduates who went on to successful careers in music will return to their alma mater to play Miller Music Fest May 7.

They include guitarist Billy McLaughlin, the subject of the 2009 documentary “Changing Keys: Billy McLaughlin and the Mysteries of Dystonia.” The documentary followed McLaughlin as he relearned to play the guitar following his diagnosis with a rare neuro-muscular disorder.

Also playing are producer and songwriter Jeff Arundel and guitarist, producer and “A Prairie Home Companion” veteran Tom Lieberman.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Washburn High School Foundation’s Windows of Opportunity campaign. The campaign aims to strengthen Washburn’s art, athletic and academic programs.

Miller Music Fest is 7 p.m. May 7 at Washburn High School, 201 W. 49th St. Tickets are $15 for the public and $10 for students and staff.

VIP tickets are $100 and include VIP seating, a meet-and-greet with performers and admission to the after-party at Whiskey Junction. After-party tickets are $10.

The after-party featuring the Thunderheads is 9 p.m. to close at Whiskey Junction, 901 Cedar Ave. S. After-party attendees must be 21 years old or older. Tickets are $10.

For more information or to order tickets go to washburnconnections.org/miller-music-fest-2010/. Tickets also may be ordered by calling Sabrina Denson at 644-2302.

———

Two Southwest students are National Merit Scholars

LINDEN HILLS — Southwest High School students Ashley Bielinski and Christopher Riddle were named National Merit Scholars April 21.

Both students were among about 1,000 recipients of corporate-sponsored scholarships funded by about 200 companies, foundations and business organizations, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation reported. Bielinski was selected for the National Merit General Mills Foundation Scholarship and Riddle won the National Merit Siemens Scholarship.

The students previously advanced to the finalist level in the National Merit Scholarship competition based on their scores as juniors on standardized exams. Finalists were chosen from among more than 1.5 million students at 22,000 high schools who entered the competition as high school juniors in 2008.

Corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarships provide students annual stipends of between $500 and $10,000 per year for up to four years of college studies.