4 Tips for a Successful MDE Review + Comment Submission!
In August, we wrote a primer post about the Minnesota Department of Education’s Review & Comment process.
This post is a follow-up that post, with our tips for a successful Review + Comment submission! Are you ready?!
1. Include an Introduction
The Introduction section of the Review & Comment should begin with the Cover Letter, a required piece of the submission. However, it shouldn’t stop there. Successful submissions include additional information in the intro, such as:
- Key contacts on the project
- District Vision
- District Mission
- District Values Statement
Keep the introduction to 5-6 pages max., including the cover letter. Place the Table of Contents at the end of the Introduction section to ensure that the Commissioner notices the additional information.
2. Include Supporting Documentation in the Appendices
Much of the information submitted in the Review & Comment is a summary of more detailed research and reports created behind the scenes by the District, Architect, Bonding company, or other entities working with the District to plan the project. Including these details in the appendices lessens the likelihood of an unfavorable review due to the Commissioner needing more information after reading through the basic R&C submission.
Appendices may include:
- Site plan, floor plans
- Space program
- Construction project budget
- Bond terms from financing agent
- District budget/long-range budget projection model
- School Board meeting minutes when Board approvals were made regarding the project
- Traffic studies
- Student demographic studies
3. Financing – Be Specific and Clear
The most essential component of the Review & Comment is the Project Financing. Districts must be very clear in specifying the source of financing the project. The layout of project scope, cost, and financing must be very clear and concise so that all parties can follow each and every dollar. This is true as a public school going through a voter referendum or a charter school utilizing bond sales as the primary source of financing. The Minnesota Review and Comment is a public document, so accuracy and transparency is a must when outlying the project financing specifics.
- Cost of Project
- Financial impact of the project on the District.
- Additional Staff, Maintenance Personnel, Yearly Operational Costs, etc.
- Local Tax Implications
4. Schedule a Pre-Submission meeting with the Department of Education
The Commissioner has 60 days to give a positive, negative, or unfavorable Review & Comment. This can seem like a lifetime when the project schedule is tight, and the last thing the District needs is to be set back by an unfavorable or negative review due to missing information. Scheduling a Pre-Submission meeting with the Department of Education will help you avoid this.
During this meeting, the District gets an opportunity to “sell” the project and how it will benefit the District to the MDE. Additionally, the MDE becomes familiar with the project and District, and gets an opportunity to quickly review a full draft of the submission and call out any potential gaps in information. Typically, these meetings are scheduled two to three weeks before the District plans on submitting the Review & Comment. Remember, the MDE doesn’t set deadlines as to when R&Cs need to be submitted; the deadline to submit the R&C is determined by the District and is often based on referendum voting deadlines or other funding-relation schedule restrictions.