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Monday, August 12, 2013

Contract of the Day: Program Development

The Emery School District and the City of Emeryville is entering into many contracts with consultants and builders for the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life.  The money spent on these contracts is public and the public has a right to know.  Large contracts and small, the ECCL Contract of the Day will highlight what your money is being spent on.

Today's Featured Contract(s):
 $208,800 to National Equity Project, Children's Aid Society, MIG, and Partners in School Innovation 
for program development
approved February 2012.

In January of 2012, the School District's then-Director of Youth & Community Engagement presented a proposed contract in the amount of $194,900 for an "ECCL Program Design/K-12 Incubation Process."  This proposal was met with outright anger from City Council members as they received the information at the January 2012 City Schools Committee meeting.  Councilmember Ruth Atkin, in particular, expressed the view that they had done this work already for years and, from the documents presented, she could see no reason to do such work again.  "Back sliding", she called it.

The proposed contract contained some items only a long-time public consultant could dream up.  First item on their list was a "Listening campaign" to take 15 days, including planning time, and to cost $22,500.  The Tattler might be better known for talking than listening, but at a rate of $1,500/day, even we could be persuaded to simply sit and listen to people talk about the ECCL.

Then there was $38,600 for "Transitional Leadership Team: Development and Capacity Building" and another $40,800 for "Organizational Capacity Building."  It's unclear what all this "capacity building" was supposed to be about, but apparently the District needed $79,400 worth of it.  The Tattler has long had concerns about the capacity of the ECCL site, given all the buildings the District plans to put on the site, but there is reason to doubt that this was the sort of capacity problem the consultants hoped to address.

After a thorough drubbing, the District staff assured the City Schools committee that the message had been heard loud and clear and a revised proposal focused on critically needed services would be presented to them at the February meeting.

It takes a special kind of hubris to do what the District staff did next.  They returned to the February meeting with a group of four contracts for "Program Development" that totaled $208,800--more than the contract amount proposed in January!  These contracts provided for $57,600 to National Equity Project, $72,000 to Children's Aid Society, $32,000 to MIG, and $47,200 to Partners in School Innovation.

The services described and the deliverables in each contract are virtually identical, and each so trivial or devoid of meaning as to leave one uncertain whether a deliverable has ever been delivered.  For example, Page 8 of the Partners in School Innovation contract shows that they are paid roughly $4,000 per day to sit in a room with other people and "collaborate" and "comment as requested" on the design components of the over-arching program.  Each of the contract's deliverables contains "relationship building."  How does one know when a relationship is sufficiently "built" so as to be "delivered"?

Why does the District need to pay someone thousands of dollars so that District and City staff can sit in a room and talk to one another?  Are we so dysfunctional that we should also bring in boxing gloves and a referee?  And isn't the "program" of the ECCL largely to educate students?  Do we not already know how to do that or at least have in-house expertise on how to do so that wouldn't be so costly?

At this February meeting, the School District's Deputy Superintendent, Anakarita Allen, spoke at length to the Committee on the pressing need for these contracts, without ever mentioning to them that she serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Equity Project.

The City School Committee was beaten down by the District's insistence that this was the only way for them to plan for the ECCL and approved the use of joint City and School District funds for these contracts.  Enjoy these ECCL Contracts of the Day!

1 comment:

  1. From now on when you run an expose, try to elicit comments from council members to explain why something happened. Otherwise, it is hard to judge if it is too narrow in scope. Try to do this each time.