Editor's Note (The View From Here)
Public Trust is Essential
- By Deborah P. Moore
- October 1st, 2016
constructing and keeping a facility in
acceptable condition are formidable tasks,
but, garnering the necessary support to fund these
projects may be an even bigger task. The perceived
failure of our education system has made the
public wary of supporting future investments. The
tendency to dwell on the negative has made it more
difficult for institutions to gain public trust and needed financial support.
To regain community trust and support, we need to provide data
gathered by our planning and evaluation processes that verifies we are
managing risk and provides evidence of need. This includes the development
of comprehensive facility master plans, capital improvement plans,
post-occupancy evaluations and the use of facility condition indexes.
Often, the first challenge is convincing leadership that time and
money should be spent on a comprehensive planning process, and
that effective planning includes the representation and involvement
of the entire community. Today’s educational institutions are becoming
centers of community, facilities for early childhood programs, job
training/retraining and workplace development. In order to garner the
necessary public support and enhance accountability, local citizens
should have a voice in the type of their educational facilities. This
collective vision will result in a facility that: represents the needs of the
community; is the collective responsibility of the community; and is
supported by all of the people who helped create it.
It is also important that everyone understand that opening a new
building is only the beginning. Next comes the need for post-occupancy
evaluations, facility condition assessments and the development of a
capital improvement plan. In my opinion, too few institutions perform
post-occupancy evaluations. There is a lot we can learn from our buildings,
and performing a post-occupancy evaluation can reveal limitations
in the current design and prevent costly mistakes in the future.
The recent recession wreaked havoc on education funding. Jobs
were lost, new facility construction decreased and maintenance of
existing facilities was deferred. Despite a recovering economy, the
funding for education remains low. The trend has shifted from building
new, to taking care of what we have and prioritizing projects.
To regain financial support for education we need to regain the
publics’ trust. Community involvement in the planning process,
and defensible data, are necessary in order to support the messages
we send — messages that must be sent by educational leaders who
display competence, exhibit integrity and are true to their word. It is
always easier to gain trust than to restore it.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.