Dreaming the Dreams of Our Children
Written by Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
My lifelong friend and childhood hero, Toby Dawn McIntyre, has never before shown up two weeks in a row, so my deepest apologies. This time, it was a late-night phone call: “Come alone. Your office, 5 A.M.” A few seconds later, my phone dinged: Bring Donuts! As I lay there in bed, I could not help but wonder what he was up to. It was only a week since Toby surprised me after being in hiding for months, so I ran through a list of questions and concerns about our upcoming Student Investment Program (SIP) that Toby may have for me. The biggest questions have been about the $15.8 million of funds in the bond which are undesignated, and it is a legitimate question with three legitimate answers: Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Toby’s concerns, however, are not always legitimate.
As we were finalizing the SIP, our architect warned me that bids were already coming in much higher than expected due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Many people remember that a similar thing happened in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit shortly after the district passed a bond. Costs skyrocketed overnight, and as a result, the district could not afford all of the promised projects. Fortunately, Harvey and Irma hit beforehand, so we adjusted the bond language to ensure that we would not be caught unprepared. Fool us once, shame on Katrina; fool us twice, shame on LPS.
Estimates are only estimates until final bids are submitted, and with three major hurricanes hitting the United States, it would have been fiscally irresponsible if the Board had done anything else. A hurricane factor of 15% is what Fort Sill prepared for in their Installation Planning Board Meeting last week, so we are not alone. By law, bond funds can be spent only on those categories in the ballot, but fortunately, the law allows as much as 30% to be set aside for these circumstances. We opted for about 15% to ensure we can deliver what we promise. Hopefully, all estimates will be on-target and we can continue to address our long list of needs under the watchful eye of the Bond Oversight Committee, Board, and state-approved auditors. Besides the Hurricane factor, however, people have many other questions about the bond. It would be impossible to address all of them, so we have created a Lawton Can page at www.lawtonps.org. If the question you have is not answered on that page, you can click on a link to get it directly to me, and I will share what I know ASAP.
As I pulled into Shoemaker Center in the pre-dawn darkness, I saw that the entire parking lot was full of a variety of vehicles – vintage VW vans, 4x4 trucks, street-legal dune buggies, flashy street rods, a fully restored AMC Pacer, and at least two motorcycles with side-cars, among other unique rides. I knew what this meant. Toby Dawn’s cousins were in town, and I did not have enough donuts.
Now before you imagine a room full of red-headed giants, you should know that the McIntyres are a diverse group. If I had to check a box, it would be all of the above. The only two things they all have in common are the McIntyre grin and the Toby temper. Draped over each of their shoulders were dozens of empty soda cans on strings. “We are here because we believe that Lawton can, Tommy boy!” And then, in typical McIntyre fashion, they abruptly walked out of the room, each of them planting a wet kiss on my cheek as they exited to hang them around town. As I wiped the McIntyre slobber from my face, I decided that an empty can was much better than a sloppy kiss as a sign of hope that Lawton can. Of course, hanging a can up may only mean that no one kicked that particular can down the road. On the other hand, it may mean that Lawton really can, which is something we should figure out.