March 14 will go down as a momentous and historic day in the Helena-West Helena School District. Our community has decided to take a huge step forward in enhancing our public school system, which is going to be a huge boost for our children and this community. When all of this is done, it is my hope that our schools will be a source of pride for our residents and a unifying force in our community.
The theme of our campaign was Great Schools = Great Communities. I believe that wholeheartedly. However, all of us know how hard fought the campaign became and the divisions among us that it either exposed or created. As we begin to build buildings, it is my hope and my prayer that we also build bridges in our community.
I want to begin by speaking to those that opposed us in this campaign. It is obvious that many found it difficult to trust the district based on past experience. We have urged you to not live in that past and to give us a chance to move this district forward because this is a new day in Helena-West Helena School District.
Superintendent John Hoy and the members of this board are committed to this project being completed honestly and in a way that will make you proud. With that in mind, we have formally appointed Meryl Lewis, the founder of the Lewis-Elliott Architects Engineers in Little Rock, Ark. as the architect for this project. Also, we have selected Baldwin & Shell as the construction managers for the work. These firms led our work on the new Eliza Miller Elementary Building at the J. F. Wahl Elementary campus. Both had the approval from the commissioner of education as well as the advisory board to complete that project, which is ahead of schedule and within budget.
Let me say a little about Mr. Lewis. He is an architect with over 50 years experience in public school construction. He worked with former superintendents J. F. Wahl and Harold Chorley on buildings within the school district. He is widely respected statewide and has been described by many to be one of the most ethical individuals working in the business today. He has worked tirelessly for this district and has done an excellent job. He will make sure that everything is completed to the highest ethical standards.
Baldwin & Shell is one of the state’s leading construction management firms and has a positive reputation statewide as one of the top firms for public school construction. Our experience with them on the current project has been nothing but positive. They will handle all of the bidding and the awarding of contracts on this project in conjunction with the architect.
This means the entire process will be insulated from any improper political influence. Baldwin & Shell and Mr. Lewis will insure that those who bid on the contracts are reputable and qualified to do the work and will award the contracts accordingly. The school board will not have a role in that part of the project since it has hired Baldwin and Shell to manage the construction. This should give those in the community who are hesitant to trust the district added comfort that we are handling things in a way to build public confidence that this is being done right.