Monday, June 20, 2016

Comments on Contracts to be Considered at June 22nd, 2016 Panel for Educational Policy Meeting

The comments below below were provided by the Citizens Contract Review the PEP members responsible for approving contracts. Here is the link to the descriptions and the shorter agenda of contract items.  The DOE now has supplied an additional 51 pages of documentation of scandal-plagued Community Based Organizations (CBOs) selected to provide services to Renewal schools -- none of which was revealed to the PEP until after they had already voted to approve the contracts last month. 

Update: Press coverage of DOE's delinquently delayed disclosures  here and  here. 

Pre-K Contracting Lacks Transparency

The DOE continues its practice of not disclosing any information on Pre-K providers prior to the Panel votes. This month, items 1,2,3 and 15 (pages 1,2,3 and 41) are Pre-K related but have no supporting documentation.  These should be removed from the agenda and brought for a vote only when sufficient information can be disclosed in advance for PEP and public to review.

Community / Renewal Schools Contracting Lacks Transparency

Following criticism of the lack of DOE transparency in vetting Community Based Organizations (including this article) supporting Renewal Schools, the DOE released additional information on CBOs receiving contracts.  There are 51 pages of negative findings for the vendors hired to provide services to community schools and no information about exactly what services they were hired to provide and how they were chosen, or an explanation of how they will improve academic results at these schools. Nine of these problems were uncovered by a reporter. Was due diligence done and why did it take a reporter to catch the omissions?

Several vendors have repeatedly received low ratings from DYCD for poor participation and other problems.  For example, there are many negative findings against one particular vendor, Sports and Arts Schools Foundation (SASF). On two occasions, young children under supervision of SASF staff were lost, including one in the subway system. The incidents resulted in fines and license suspensions for SASF. It would make sense for SASF to reestablish its record of competence with student supervision before taking on additional contracts.

Only Limited Information Provided on New Corporation for Custodial Contracting

Item 13 (page 36) describes an arrangement to form a new corporation that will in turn, provide custodial services to public schools. The new entity will be a non-profit with a board comprised of the chancellor, appointees of the chancellor and a mayoral appointee. 

We have the following questions regarding this arrangement which cannot be answered by the information provided:

  • The chancellor already has complete control over the DOE organizational structure. She can have custodians managed by a central administrator without creating a new corporation. A new corporation with separate accounts and staff makes for a more complex organization with more potential for waste and abuse.  Why can't management of the work be centralized without a new entity?
  • What is the exact corporate form of NYC School Support Services, Inc.?
  • Will the new entity have separate dedicated staff? How many and what are their job descriptions?
  • Will custodians be employed by the Board of Education or by NYC School Support Services, Inc.?
  • If they have a new employer, will they have a new and different contract?
  • Will their compensation and other terms be more or less favorable than today?
  • What impact is there on the pension structure or contributions?
  • Could the NYCSSS choose to contract with non-union providers of custodial services? It seems this would be the prerogative of the board and management of NYCSSS. 
  • Does the structure make it easier to outsource custodial services to private entities now or eventually? While this may not be relevant in the current administration, the structure may allow future mayors to privatize services more easily.

PEP members should see and inspect the contract with NYCSS before approving the disbursement of funds to it.  

Lack of Monitoring or Assessment of Professional Development

DOE continues to seek approval of large contracts for professional development.  DOE should provide more comprehensive information regarding these programs:

  • Schedule of schools employing them
  • Explanation of how programs are monitored to ensure they're delivered as contracted
  • Evaluations of programs for efficacy

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