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ade statewide data system

ADE To Receive $5M Grant To Upgrade Statewide Data System

Superintendent John Huppenthal announced that the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) was awarded a $5 million federal grant to advance the development of Arizona’s statewide longitudinal data system. This funding will help the state and its school districts improve students’ academic achievement by enhancing Arizona’s ability to make data driven education decisions.

Specifically, this grant will be used for the development of a dashboard for ADE’s longitudinal data system, providing consolidation and visualization of data that now is randomly and chaotically embedded in a variety of current IT configurations.

“Nothing is more important than the success of our students and this grant will help create a holistic picture of student progress,” said John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “This funding will provide one more piece of the puzzle in our ultimate goal of an integrated data system that serves the needs of administrators, teachers, parents and students long into the future.”

Since taking office in 2010, Superintendent Huppenthal has made it a priority to address the failing statewide Student Accountability Information system (SAIS) which has been a significant problem for over a decade. SAIS has caused an enormous burden on our school districts, requiring them to spend countless hours and imposing an enormous human resource burden to reconcile errors generated from ADE’s failing IT system.

Over the last two years, ADE has developed partnerships with the Governor’s office, county superintendents, districts and charter schools, community colleges and the universities to build an efficient technology system that will improve accountability by tracking student academic progress.

Together with funds allocated by the Arizona legislature, this grant will help lay the groundwork for replacing the state’s longitudinal data system and give schools more timely information on student enrollment and academic achievement. Aligning with the Governor’s Arizona Education Reform Plan, it will assist our Arizona’s educators by responding to the increasing demands for timely and actionable data across all K-12 schools and throughout Arizona’s diverse, school choice education landscape.

For more information about the federal grant for the ADE, visit the ADE’s website at azed.gov

Public Projects - AZRE Magazine January/February 2012

Public Projects: Keeping Construction Companies Alive

Of the 15 Arizona school districts that asked voters in November to approve bonds to build or renovate education facilities, 11 got the go-ahead despite the lingering recession.

That’s good news for many of the state’s construction companies that have relied on publicly-funded projects to boost business and keep workers employed as private investment in new buildings plummeted with economy.

And for public entities with the need and the seed money, it’s a good time to snag a good deal in a highly competitive market for construction materials and services.  But while public projects have helped, government spending has not been the great savior of the industry, according to Arizona’s construction company leaders.

The recession has taken its toll on public building plans with shrinking tax revenue sopping up funds pegged for new schools, city halls, police stations or libraries.  And as absolutely essential projects get checked off the list, public spending is expected to dwindle.  However, at least some projects are still getting budgeted and built, says Bo Calbert, president of McCarthy Building Companies’ Southwest Region.

“From 2003 to 2007, we probably had our best market in decades, but by 2008, everybody knew we were in trouble,” Calbert says.

“Private (projects) stopped overnight.  Public work continued.”

Citing a recent market outlook report for Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Calbert says overall construction value slipped 40% in 2008 from its 2007 high, tumbled another 23% in 2009 and 27% in 2010.  The report predicts 2011 value will increase 40% when the final numbers are compiled, but will sag slightly this year (2012) before heading back up in 2013.

Building During the Recession

Much of the 2011 increase is a result of federal stimulus funding for schools, infrstructure, solar-fueled projects and other green upgrades, Calbert says.

Among the infrastructure projects McCarthy landed is construction of the $140M, first phase of the PHX Sky Train, a people mover pegged to connect Phoenix

Public Projects - AZRE Magazine January/February 2012

Sky Harbor International Airport visitors and employees to the terminals, light rail system and parking lots.

McCarthy’s usually packed education division had a 2011 workload values at about $110M, Calbert says.  That’s down from a high of $170M in 2008.  And about 40% of the 2011 business was out-of-state work as McCarthy took jobs in New Mexico to make up for Arizona’s shortfall.

“Public work has kept us going, but we had to go beyond Arizona,” he says.  Among the school projects McCarthy snagged during the recession is  a $20M addition and renovation for Barry Goldwater High School, says Terry Bohl, the company’s education services director.  Parts of that multi-faceted project were completed during summer 2011 break, and other non-disruptive work is still ongoing, he says.

During the summer break, McCarthy completed 600,000 SF of school construction in Metro Phoenix, including the new buildings, renovations and mechanical upgrades. Still in the works is a new, $12M, 80,000 SF elementary school in Chandler, Bohl says.

Chandler is one of the few Arizona cities able to afford other-than-school public projects during the downturn.  The city broke ground on a $74M city hall complex in mid-2009.  After leasing, saving and budgeting for 25 years, Chandler didn’t have to borrow money to build it, says spokeswoman Jane Poston.  Best of all, Chandler’s project came in $10M under original budget thanks to the sagging economy.

“We had significant cost savings building in a recession,” Poston says.  Designing a much-needed firehouse as solar-fueled and LEED-certified helped Gilbert land a $3M federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, says spokeswoman Beth Lucas.

Maricopa County also saved a bundle by opting to build during the recession, says Thomas Goderre, district operations manager for Gilbane Building Company.

Gilbane teamed with Ryan Companies US on a 700,000 SF superior court tower in Downtown Phoenix (construction value $260M).

“The Maricopa County Court Tower project was big and constructed at the perfect time for Maricopa County, Gilbane/Ryan and the subcontractor community,” Goderre says.  “The county was able to realize construction cost savings in the range of $15M to $20M compared to a normal construction climate, while Gilbane/Ryan and the local subcontractors were able to put a lot of people to work during a very tough economic downturn.”

The court tower was completed in November.  That, along with a new Phoenix Politce precinct and four ASU student recreation centers, are among the publicly funded projects that “helped us weather the storm,” Goderre says.

Looking For New Opportunities

In Arizona, about 75% of Gilbane’s business has been publicly funded projects, he says, but Goderre sees that changing as public money dies up and private investment returns to the market.

Sundt Construction vice president Jeff Fairman says he also believes privately funded projects will take over more of his company’s resources during the next few years as cities and school districts continue to get squeezed.

Tempe-based Sundt bills about $1B in a normal year.  Business has dropped overall during the recession, but the company’s 50/50 ration of public/private business has so far remained static, Fairman says.

Sundt has about $500M worth of public work in progress right now, but most of that is in multi-year projects, he says.

Both the volume of new business and overall construction value have shrunk as pre-recession plans that weren’t shelved were at least downsized.  “The bells and whistles went away,” he says.

Besides building the new Chandler City Hall complex, Sundt landed a potpourri of publicly-funded projects during the economic downturn including K-8 and higher education buildings, municipal infrastructure projects, a federal courthouse and a U.S. Marine Corps simulator facility in Yuma.

Mesa-based Caliente Construction has specialized in upgrading or repurposing existing facilities during the downturn, says CEO Lorraine Bergman.  The company is renovating old post office space to accommodate a student center for ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.  Caliente has several projects completed or ongoing to make security, technology or mechanical improvements in public buildings from schools to prisons, Bergman says.  “It’s come down to necessity.  You can’t let the buildings fall apart,” she says.

Kitchell president Jim Swanson says the public sector produces “a sizable piece of our business,” typically employing about 30 percent of the company’s workforce in Arizona and California.

Commercial construction work is down for nearly all Kitchell’s business segments, Swanson says.  And public projects in no way take up the slack, he says.  Instead, he’d give props to the healthcare industry for keeping his business healthy.

For more information on the companies and public projects mentioned in this article, please visit the following websites:

calienteconstruction.com

gilbaneco.com

kitchell.com

mccarthy.com

sundt.com

AZRE Magazine January/February 2012

Voting Booth

Update: A Proposition Primer For Election Day – Tom’s Picks

Editor’s Note: With less than a week to go before Election Day, AZNow.Biz’s political columnist, Tom Milton, has revealed his recommendations on the 10 propositions on the ballot. As he says, “You’ll notice, I don’t like many of them.”

Election Day is almost here. If you are like me, you are probably already tired of the commercials, the phone calls and the mail.  Along with a sea of candidates on this ballot, we will also be asked to vote on a number of issues. There are 10 propositions on this November’s ballot. Understanding a proposition in itself can sometimes be tricky, but that is only half of the battle. The tougher part can be understanding what a “Yes” vote means as opposed to a “No” vote.  Here is a very short recap of the main points behind the 10 propositions.

I want to give special thanks to Stuart Goodman of Goodman Schwartz Public Affairs, who for the last few election cycles summarized this information so that it is easier to understand. I used his summary as my guide and added just a touch more information as well.

The first seven propositions are all items that the Legislature referred to the ballot.

Prop. 106 – Healthcare Freedom Act

Passing means that the state’s constitution would be amended to prohibit any law from forcing a person or business into having to participate in a specific health care system. It will allow a person to buy their health care from any provider without being fined or penalized.

Proponents (YES VOTE) say it will guarantee that health care consumers can make their own choices without being penalized.

Opponents (NO VOTE) argue it is just an effort to derail federal health care reform and will negatively impact the uninsured.

Tom’s Pick:

NO on Prop. 106
Behind every ballot initiative is usually a special interest or cause. This prop is meant to scuttle Obamacare. It is suppose to prevent people from being forced into a medical system that will penalize them if they don’t participate. It will actually not prevent Obamacare, but rather create conflict between the federal government and Arizona. I don’t feel this is the best way to deal with health care reform.


Prop. 107 – Arizona Civil Rights Initiative

Passing would amend Arizona’s constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to any person or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. This would mostly apply to government and political subdivisions such as school districts.

Proponents (YES VOTE) say this provides equal protection for all citizens by not providing preferential treatment to anyone.

Opponents (NO VOTE) argue this will turn back the clock on the civil rights movement, as these programs have helped level the playing field for disadvantaged groups.

Tom’s Pick:

NO on Prop. 107
I struggle with ballot initiatives that I feel are deceptively named. This ballot prop eliminates any affirmative-action style program. So why not call it that? Most civil rights advocates attribute affirmative action as a useful tool that has significantly helped in the civil rights movement. So this initiative wants to eliminate affirmative action and calls itself a “Civil Rights Initiative.” I know that not everyone likes these programs, but there are numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions that prevent these programs from being run as quotas or set-asides. Any program implemented today has to be preceded by a disparity study showing that a statistical disparity exists. Then a program can be put in place for a limited time to correct that specific disparity. It is a tool. This initiative bans use of this tool and is deceptive in its name.


Prop. 109 – Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment

Passing means the Arizona constitution would be amended to declare that wildlife would be held in trust for Arizonans who have a right to lawfully hunt or fish. It would mean that only the Legislature could pass laws regulating hunting or fishing, and prohibits any law that unreasonably restricts hunting and fishing. It also provides that hunting and fishing are to be the preferred means of managing wildlife populations.

Proponents (YES VOTE) say this will protect hunting and fishing from future excessive regulation.

Opponents (NO VOTE) argue this will negatively impact the ability to use any other established wildlife management practices.

Tom’s Pick:

NO on Prop. 109
One of the things this initiative does is provide for hunting and fishing to be the preferred means of managing wildlife populations. Why would we chose to limit wildlife management to only hunting, when there are other scientific means that can also be useful? Big out-of-state money is being spent on both sides of this initiative. In favor of it is the National Rifle Association and opposed to it is the Humane Society.


Prop. 110 – State Trust Land Exchanges

Passing would amend the Arizona constitution to allow State Trust Land to be sold or leased without an auction if it is to protect a military installation or operation. It will also allow voters to approve land exchanges for military protection or land planning purposes.

Proponents (YES VOTE) say this will protect military facilities and helps better manage Trust Lands.

Opponents (NO VOTE), well, there aren’t any, or at least they haven’t said anything yet. I’ll keep listening.

Tom’s Pick:

YES on Prop. 110
When Arizona became a state, all of the land that the state owned was put into a trust to benefit education. Our forefathers were insightful to take the state’s largest resource and tie it to our greatest future need — education. It is protected in our constitution and has no flexibility. Unfortunately, there was no way that at statehood they could understand the idea of making small future exceptions that might serve a greater good. Protecting Luke Air Force Base is worth making an exception and adjusting the stringent constitutional land laws.


Prop. 111 – Lieutenant Governor

Passage would amend the Arizona constitution to change the title of the secretary of state to lieutenant governor. They would have the same job responsibilities, be elected independent of the governor, and be the first in the line of succession should the governor leave office.

Proponents (YES VOTE) say that given the regularity by which Arizona has had the secretary of state become governor, this would help voters understand the importance of the role when voting for them.

Opponents (NO VOTE) argue that after the primary election, same party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor would be forced to run as a slate. They also point out that this initiative calls for governor and lieutenant governor candidates to be from a major party, thus eliminating the ability of an Independent (which is not itself considered a party) to aspire to them.

Tom’s Pick:vote November 2, 2010

YES on Prop. 111
This initiative changes the title of the secretary of state to lieutenant governor. The person in office would still retain all of the same duties. Because Arizona has had a consistent history of governors not finishing their terms in office and the secretary of state taking over, this would help voters understand the significance of their vote: They are voting for the second-highest ranking official in the state.