The link below is a copy of the statement presented by CLEAR member Linda Jackson to the School Board at its May meeting.
The text follows:
We respectfully submit for the consideration to the Ferndale Public Schools Board of Education the following statement on a request introduced at the May 2, 2012 Community Meeting of Ferndale School District Residents for Community, Leadership, Excellence, Accountability and Responsiveness (CLEAR) and approved unanimously at the CLEAR steering committee on May 20, 2012.
We continue to advocate for transparency in consulting and contracting as a tool for strengthening community confidence in the Ferndale School District.
CLEAR had another very good meeting on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at the Ferndale Public Library and moved ahead with our process for electing an executive board and a process for endorsing candidates for the November 6, 2012 school board election. We invite all district residents who are interested in running for school board to apply for a CLEAR endorsement. We hope to have a large selection of candidates from which to choose, and we will be conducting public meetings at which CLEAR members and members of the public can ask questions of potential candidates before CLEAR members vote on the endorsements. The exact timing of these public forums will depend on the availability of candidates and of public meeting spaces, but we will be sure to keep everyone informed at our website: http://makeitclearferndale.org/ and our facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/makeitclearferndale.
At the May 2nd CLEAR meeting, our members also received a report from Jim O’Donnell regarding the district contracts, and on May 15th CLEAR member Darcie Brault—who spoke to the board on CLEAR’s behalf last month—received a letter from the District’s legal counsel regarding the questions she raised when she stood in front of this board. On the basis of the member requests and the information received by CLEAR members, the CLEAR steering committee voted to return to the school board this month with some follow-up questions and requests.
At last month’s school board meeting Darcie Brault forwarded CLEAR’s recommendation that the board and the administrators voluntarily reopen contracts with administrators to incorporate language that would require disclosures of consulting activity. She also noted that if the school board was not in agreement on reopening the contract, it would nevertheless be an important step toward transparency if administrators made full voluntary disclosures about the amount and nature of their consulting work and the compensation that they received. On May 15th, she received a letter from the district’s legal counsel (available on the CLEAR website) which explained that district administrators were not legally required to disclose their consulting activities and added additional information about the contracts but did not provide explanations for why the board could not reopen the contracts to include such disclosure provisions or why administrators could not make voluntary disclosures.
As a result, we would like to ask the board to revisit the requests made last month. We ask that the board and administrators reconsider their approach to the consulting disclosures with the goal of full disclosure, even if it is not required by the current contract.
On the basis of the information we have received we would raise several other questions:
Among the documents released by the district in response to our request is the district’s contract with Innovative Consulting in Education (ICE). The contract signed by Chuck Moeser (on behalf of the Ferndale School District) and Gary Meier (on behalf of ICE) on June 20, 2011, authorizes ICE to purchase $140,000 of support services and supplies from the district the first year of the contract, with the option of purchasing $180,000 during each of the following two years. We thank the district for releasing documents on the gross revenue received from the contract, but it would also be helpful for district residents to know the cost incurred by the district in providing these services. After subtracting costs from revenues, what is the net financial benefit of these contracts to the district?
- To the extent that Superintendent Meier signed the June 20, 2011 contract on behalf of ICE, who were the district’s representatives in the negotiation of the contract with ICE? Who is responsible for setting the prices of the goods and services that the district sells to ICE and the amount of goods and services that it provides?
- The letter from the district’s legal counsel, Ogletree and Deakins. indicates that district administrators can have two distinct kinds of consulting arrangements with ICE: administrators serve as employees of the district working on ICE-related efforts as part of the district’s services contract with ICE; administrators can also serve as independent consultants for ICE (and its contractor, Michigan Future) in their own time. In addition, district administrators also fill a third distinct role as employees of the district working on district-related efforts that are unconnected with ICE. Given the complexity of this arrangement and the potential for confusion among these three roles, how does the district distinguish among and track the number of hours that administrators spend in each of their three distinct roles?
- Finally, the contract with ICE specifies that services provided by the district to ICE are those “necessary to the performance of ICE’s contract with Michigan Future.” Since Michigan Future has announced its intention to “create new high schools at scale in Detroit and its inner ring suburbs”(http://www.michiganfuture.org/initiatives/accelerator-program/), what steps has the district taken to ensure that the creation of these new high schools assisted by the contract with ICE and Michigan Future will not compete with or otherwise be detrimental to Ferndale’s own educational offerings? What steps has the Ferndale School District taken to ensure that the community supports the decision by its public school district to enter into a support services contract with an organization promoting new high schools, many of which are charter schools?We look forward to hearing the board’s response on these questions.Again, we appreciate the board’s decision to put the question of strategic planning on this month’s agenda and we look forward to speedy implementation of a broad-based, inclusive strategic planning process based on all possible data and research. We look forward to seeing you again next month.
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