School district on track to put $19.5 million bond before voters

Brandy Fox, who has helmed VISD’s capital projects for the past six years, has announced she will soon leave the district to concentrate on other clients of her long-established business, CPM Seattle Inc.

At a Vashon Island School District school board meeting on Sept. 22, board members voted to approve a funding level of $19.5 million for the district’s next 2023 capital projects bond — a measure likely to go before voters in February 2023.

The motion passed 3-0, with votes cast by the three members in attendance that evening, Toby Holmes, Zabette Macomber and Allison Krutsinger.

The decision capped months of consideration by the administration and board, as well as outreach to the community, including two surveys and a recent public forum, regarding the amount of money and projects slated to be included in the bond measure.

During this process, board members considered three different funding levels for different scopes of projects, ranging from $27.47 million, $19.5 million and $16.39 million.

A fully formed resolution to place the measure before voters will receive a first read at the board’s Oct. 27 meeting, with a vote taking place at the next meeting, on Nov. 17.

VISD’s $19.5 million bond, if approved, will fund the following capital expenditures:

• A Vashon High School (VHS) partial gym addition and renovation would make safety and security updates to ensure legal compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title IX. Currently, the first and third floors of the gym are not accessible to community members or students who require ADA accessibility.

• The replacement of the 30-year-old VHS main parking lot, which district officials have determined is at the end of its life.

• Soffit asbestos abatement and painting at McMurry Middle School, and additional work at the school including mechanical systems improvements and restroom renovations.

• Safety updates to Chautauqua Elementary School’s (CES) fire alarm and HVAC systems, as well as the replacement of the main playground at CES — which, according to the district, is critically needed due to safety concerns.

• Replacement of windows in the Student Link building.

In an email to district families on Sept. 23, Superintendent Slade McSheehy highlighted the importance of the bond measure to district finances.

“Major maintenance and construction projects are not funded with state dollars, but instead, VISD relies on these funding measures,” he said. “By approving funds earmarked for maintenance and renovation, the school board will no longer be in the bind it has often found itself in — deciding whether to take money away from classroom instruction to maintain buildings and grounds.”

He also referred community members to a fact sheet detailing aspects of the bond, at, which states that the incremental impact on property tax rates is estimated to be $0.19 per $1,000 of assessed value.

For an $800,000 home, the cost would be $152.00 annually, or $12.66 a month.

New players to helm bond project

The complex and costly bond, if approved by voters, will be overseen by a new leadership team that is not yet completely in place in the district.

Matt Sullivan, who as the district’s financial chief for the past eight years was deeply involved in implementing past bond projects, recently departed the district to become Mercer Island School District’s new executive director of finances and operations.

McSheehy announced, at the time, that he did not intend to fill Sullivan’s position, instead promoting the district’s finance director, Kay Adams, to a new position as VISD’s director of business and finance.

Sullivan isn’t the only key player in successful past bond projects to depart.

Last month, the district’s highly experienced project manager for capital projects for the past six years, Brandy Fox, also announced that she would soon leave the district to concentrate on other clients of her long-established business, CPM Seattle Inc.

Asked how the district would replace Fox’s expertise in managing complex and costly bond projects, McSheehy said, in an email, that a process of hiring a new project manager would begin in December, followed by a hire if the bond passed in February.

Hiring a local project manager, he said, was a goal.

Regarding how Sullivan’s department might impact the project, McSheehy said the district’s current staff would oversee the project well.

“We are confident that we have the right team in place to successfully manage and complete capital bond projects,” McSheehy said, adding that Adams and Kevin Dickerson, the district’s director of facilities and management, have “extensive hands-on leadership experience successfully overseeing and coordinating recent capital bond projects that have all been on time and under budget.”

Reached by phone, Fox said that although she had the utmost respect for the work of Adams and Dickerson as colleagues at VISD, they had not been deeply involved in the detailed execution of past bond projects.

“Matt and I met in person weekly, throughout every project, and talked multiple times weekly,” Fox said, describing Sullivan as her “one and only contact” in the district for professional services procurement, bidding, contracting, obtaining full conditional use permitting with King County, and closing out work.

Dickerson and Adams, she said, supported that work through accounting as well as maintenance and custodial services.

Sullivan, too, when reached by phone, said that he and Fox had worked hand-in-hand on every aspect of past bond projects.

Like Fox, Sullivan described this work as encompassing project management and oversight, bidding on the projects, hiring and overseeing the work of contractors, obtaining permitting, and implementation.

“From soup to nuts, we did it all,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan and Fox were responsible for the implementation of VISD’s last capital projects bond, which passed in 2017. Projects from that $10 million bond included a new VHS turf field and track, new McMurray locker rooms, and new furniture, paint, and a kindergarten playground at CES.

In his email to the community on Sept. 23, McSheehy detailed the projects completed on time and under budget in the 2017 bond, under the banner of “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” saying the projects had also resulted in approximately $1.5 dollars being reinvested with on-island businesses.

Bonds provide immediate funds for long-term capital projects only, such as maintenance and modernization of buildings, new school construction, or acquisition of property. A bond is financed over a longer period of time, up to 20 years, similar to a mortgage. VISD, McSheehy said, pays off its bonds in an average of 10 to 12 years.

Bonds also require a supermajority to pass (60%+1) and must have a voter turnout that equals 40% of the voters who cast page 2 ballots in the last general election.