“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
-Henry Ford, Founder, Ford Motor Company
Hiring of professional services – architectural services to be specific, can be a challenging and daunting process, especially if the appropriate Team is not assembled to successfully deliver the project. Where to begin and how to get there, can be a task many district administrators have not had to undertake before. Let’s imagine there is a need in your community for a decision to be made about a beloved, neighborhood elementary school. It is not an uncommon situation for many School Districts and Counties to see aging schools and limited resources for modern upgrades. The local School Board has made the decision to solicit Request for Proposals (RFP) to several architectural firms. Fast forward a month, and the proposals are in, maybe interviews have been conducted, maybe a review of fees and the matrix reveals the top contenders.
Knowing that the community engagement process, from the beginning, will drive the success of the District’s future goals; a better educational environment for the students. The School Board or Authority looks to “short-list” two of the firms and each firm has reviewed their process, both included community outreach. Discussions are had between board members that both firms have an ability to deliver a well-designed building and both have resources to assist the Board and Administration. One member suggests to “just hire both and… see who does a better job”. Truly if the group is looking for a leader, then coming together is a beginning. Hiring the right architect first and let them be your leader through the process.
“Some of the main reasons the Board selected Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates were their attention to detail, prior experience on similar projects, the percentage of projects they were able to keep at or below budget and their forward thinking design approach” said Dr. Shane Hotchkiss, Superintendent, Bermudian Springs School District.
Architects and their design teams are often a trusted professional to bring the issues to the forefront and present options to fix them. Does the District have two Solicitors working on the same case? Most likely they have selected a trusted partner.
Keeping together is progress. Most times, the first task is conducting a Feasibility Study. The first step is the information gathering phase and is just as much a relationship building exercise as it is developing a valuable resource to use for long-term decision making. The architect helps the group define the guiding principles for decision making, the team learns the politics of the board and make-up of the community thread. They help to support the goal: a better educational environment for the students, right? The study phase is usually a 3 to 6-month process, but every District and community is different; different enrollment, different building dynamics. In turn, staff at Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates have experience working with over 200 different school districts and county systems in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Our process is developed from many years of working with various board members and community groups. The architect works as the School District’s advocate, their champion and their leader to get them from not knowing or being sure about what to do, to having a strong understanding of the planning and design process.
The study is now completed, and a clear vision is being communicated to the stakeholders. The architect will lead and advise the District on several task force meetings, community meetings and board presentations. Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates assists in organizing outreach with several tools: website content, virtual presentations, web surveys, video tours, and newsletters, to name a few. Everything is documented in a transparent process with a consistent message.
Several tools can be utilized for community engagement. The end goal is to help support the District to make the best decision with the information they have at the time, helping to make technical information easy to understand for the community and making recommendations. Working together is success. None of this is possible without a defined process, with a leadership team appointed from the beginning.