Looking back at our facility planning process, one cannot help but reflect on the long road that brought us to this pivotal point. When I accepted the Superintendent position at SISD three years ago, a long-term strategy for improving the District’s facilities had already been initiated.

Last July the District began the process of facility planning by reviewing the previous plan and updating the facility needs assessment. Huckabee Architects provided a service to the District that enabled a team of architects and engineers to review all SISD facilities from a technical viewpoint to help advise a District planning committee.

The most important piece in this planning process is the committee selection. The committee needed to be inclusive of all interested citizens but selective in regards to demographic representation of the community. The size of the committee was also debated intently. It had to be small enough to accomplish the planning goals, but large enough to entertain a wide range of feedback.

This past month, nine months after we began this process, invitations were sent out to individuals in the community who were either nominated by the Board of Trustees or who had expressed an interest in serving on such a committee. The committee will begin deliberating April 24 at the SHS Auditorium, and will hold regularly scheduled bi-weekly meetings in May and June.

Thirty-three dedicated individuals will be asked to prioritize, brainstorm and process solutions to our unique set of challenges. These meetings will often last more than two hours and leave members with items to consider for the next week. Some of the most pressing challenges facing the committee are found at the High School, Gilbert and Hook campuses.

Stephenville High School is over forty years old. The forty year mark is often referenced as the magic number to address renovation or replacement. After forty years, buildings have outlived their original intent, efficiency and purpose.

We are facing real challenges with a need for creative solutions. I want to assure you that my door is always open and our schools are always available for touring. Facility planning issues are almost always divisive and polarizing for all involved. My goal is to lower the tone of the rhetoric in the community and not enable an “us against them” conversation.

We are all proud of our community, and we want to see continued accomplishments by our local schools. A responsive and receptive school administration and board of trustees are crucial components to this process. I assure you that although we may not always agree on the solutions to our challenges, we will always listen and consider the options communicated by our community.

These facilities are your schools, and you set the expectations, outcomes and priorities of educational capital improvements in SISD. I encourage anyone that would like more information relating to the facility proposal to contact me 254-552-6517. You are also welcome to attend our first planning meeting this next Monday, April 24 at 6 p.m. in the Stephenville High School auditorium.

Matt Underwood is the Stephenville ISD Superintendent.