Draft list of questions for Board

Some things on my mind. I do not intend to ask these at the Board Meeting because I do not think Board Meetings are the proper venue to ask these kinds of questions, so perhaps I can put these questions to the Board in an email after I finalize it. But I present it here as a “work in progress” kind of thing. Please feel free to add your own – I think I’ll update this original post with new comments/thoughts/suggestions (even though RSS doesn’t like that).

1. Request for more visibility (aka, transparency) into the Bids and RFPs. Right now, outside of Board Meeting agendas and minutes, Bids and RFPs only show up briefly on the Unit 4 website (on this one page – which was kindly copied to the Quick Links section). It would be helpful for more information surrounding the bids and RFPs be made available to the public. For instance, I recently noticed the RFP for Hovercam T3 Document Cameras was on the U4 website last week and is now gone, but it shows up in the Board agenda, and the Business Office recommends to the Board to go with School Tech Supply. How do I, as a public taxpayer, know why these Hovercams are needed or to what use they will be put? The only tool I have right now is to go back to every single Board Meeting Minutes and manually look to see if this was discussed on the off-chance the justification can be found in Open Meeting. Or I could FOIA any and all references to it. As an enhancement, I would request the following:

  • Any Bid or RFP that appears on the BidsRFPs.html page remain on that page
  • A status flag (for example, “open”, “closed”) be marked for each bid/RFP
  • links to documents justifying the bid/RFP be included when first posted
  • Summary of any discussions (especially those involving the Board) related to the bid/RFP

2. District Administration has done a lot of work to quickly get ready for extra large classes this next year (ie, the “bubble” gifted class that Trevor has publicly talked about). While I realize the District is moving at lightspeed and many balls are being juggled at the same time, I am concerned about how the decisions were made. Which leads me to ask several related questions:

  • Exactly what all is being planned 2012-2013 (in terms of accommodating large grade levels)?  Trevor’s interview with WILL talks about one of the classes that will be added at Dr. Howard – what about “Carrie Busey, Bottenfield, Robeson, and Southside”?
  • How about the next 5 years?
  • How is this information being communicate outwards (to the Board, to the Community)?
  • How is the public engaged in the decision-making process? If they are not, why not? [note I am not trying to be argumentative – my intent and tone is to learn the facts]

3. What is the latest update about the Public Engagement Firm? I believe firms were interviewed already, correct?

4. The recent RFP for the Choice Program (active) has a lot of legal language, but is short on describing actual functionality. How will a suitable vendor be selected? What criteria will be used to determine what the final product shall look like if such criteria is not official documented? Will parents and those who actually use the system get a chance to voice their opinions?

5. A mystery: why is the document that discusses changes to Board Policy (June 11th Board Meeting BoardDocs) entitled “Board Bars Unfinished Business”?

6. There are a lot of bids and RFPs for technology related items. When talking to local tech experts, I have learned that local resources are not often consulted or even made aware of a related bid/RFP. I realize these bids/RFPs are posted online (which is not monitored) and posted to the News-Gazette (again, monitoring is an issue). Would it be feasible to make more of an effort to invite local outlets? How about more general discussion surrounding the requirements for such technology in the first place?

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8 Responses to “Draft list of questions for Board”

  1. pattsi Says:

    Were the PR firms interviewed during some type of public meeting? If so, is this scheduled for showing on channel 5?

  2. jason Says:

    I have some responses to the draft questions.

    1 – Adding more visibility would be great, especially for the confusing bid process. It’s also a bit costly, probably will require a full time person to keep everything up to date, and they will need to be trained in what the statuses mean and how to tell when a bid has moved to a new status. And then a secretarial report for all meetings? I’m not sure that’s even legal to publish.

    2 – Class size can’t be handled year-to-year. It looks like the school board is taking advantage of new revenues and new construction to put a bandaid on the problem, it doesn’t look like there’s even a short-term sustainable strategy.

    3 – Yeah, update please?

    4 – I’ve worked on one or two RFPs for the University, but none in the public sector. The functionality desired is described in the RFP, or the result will not be what you want or expect. The RFP is like a GIGO computer: garbage in = garbage out.

    5 – No idea, no comment. Seems off-topic. This might get better attention by contacting Dr. Weigand off the record. I can’t see any good coming from that title being associated with the content in the link, there must have been a mistake somewhere.

    6 – This is a problem for the local tech experts. RFPs are submitted on known, reliable channels; the local companies need to know where to monitor. The community should not be concerned with a local business being unaware of an announced bid, because the local business should know where to watch for those bid announcements.

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    @pattsi

    It is my understanding that the PR firms were not interviewed publicly; I base this statement on two observations:

    On April 26th, Dr. Wiegand told me that two firms had replied to the RFP and would be interviewed and a recommendation made to the Board at the May 15th Board Meeting
    I am not finding any mention of such a firm in any of the Board Meeting agendas starting May 15th. The Minutes are not yet available. I do have the videos, and I do not recall the firms being mentioned again.

    I don’t know what happened. It is entirely possible I simply missed where the PE firm was announced – but I would think that would be relatively big news.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    @jason

    Thanks for chiming in.

    In terms of RFPs, I would like to see Unit 4 start with the simple, low-hanging fruit. For starters, it doesn’t take any work to keep bids and RFPs on the website. 🙂 They have a very simple text file from which line items are added and removed. It would take just a little bit more work to add date information; for instance, the date the RFP was opened and a date the RFP was closed. Again, not taking it off at all, just adding another small piece of information. No database, no index, no nothing else to track. This is just one very simple thing that I think would help improve visibility. One example.

    Having the justification/reasoning behind the RFP publicized would take a bit more work, I agree. Is it worth it? I personally think so. Let me attack this from a different angle. Let’s say we have our Board Member Jane Doe. She is sent “the packet” late Friday night and it has 5 RFPs that she is supposed to look over. Two of them deal with an issue that relates to complaints she has heard from 20 different parents and read about in the news. She has three days to make a decision about what she thinks of these RFPs, knowing that the public has absolutely no idea or any background on it. How does she make her decision? How does she represent the interests of the public that elected her?

    On the tech side, I agree to a point that the community in general is not really supposed to get involved. However, I am much more concerned about allowing local interests being crowded because the District has “favorite” companies they usually deal with. We could get into a big argument over governmental waste (the whole $300 screwdriver thing), but what I am most concerned about is that we could be providing for technical needs with local resources, instead of continually investing in big companies that spend their money in other towns or other states.

    I am glad we are having this discussion, thanks.

  5. charlesdschultz Says:

    As to the PE Firm, I heard back from Sue Grey today that they have put this on the back burner because their plate is already overflowing with so many other important things right now (my words, not hers). They are hoping to make an announcement closer to start of school (2012).

  6. pattsi Says:

    Here is some food for thought–right now the Champaign County Board is wrestling with the jail expansion issue. Here are the steps that we are following:

    A project team was chosen but not approved by the CB. One member of the team, the sheriff, wrote the the draft of a RFP for a needs assessment of the jails–downtown and satellite. The proposal draft followed what members of the project team had learned during a 5-day workshop in Colorado put on by National Institute of Corrections, part of the Department of Justice. The project team had input. The RFP went to the County Board (CB) Committee of the Whole (COW) for discussion and more input. The RFP was passed by the CB (posted on the county web site) and then posted in appropriate venues. There were 8 responses submitted. These are being read by the project team and CB. The project team is evaluating the 8 and a tabulation of the evaluations will be part of the discussion this coming Tuesday at COW. The top 3, at least, or maybe more will be determined and then invited to do presentations on 26 June at a CB study session.The chosen proposals will be posted on the county web site. Except for the reading of the proposals, all of this has been done under the OMA. The publlc is invited to give input and I guarantee this coming Tuesday that there will be public input. On the 26th, I hope that members of the Community Justice TF will be involved in the interview process and be able to have input as to what firm is chosen. There will be public input that evening.

    You can read the RFP here– http://www.co.champaign.il.us/bid_documents/2012-003JailNeedsAssessment.pdf
    You can read all of the bids, RFP’s, etc here http://www.co.champaign.il.us/bids.htm

    You can read the COW packet here http://www.co.champaign.il.us/countybd/cow2agenda.htm#cow2
    http://www.co.champaign.il.us/COUNTYBD/agactmin.htm

    You can read the Community Justice TF materials here http://www.co.champaign.il.us/countybd/2012CJTF.htm#cjtf

    The county, not unlike Unit 4, affects a lot of citizens, in this case the whole county so transparency is of utmost importance. And the jail issue will undoubtedly affect you by raising your property taxes.

  7. pattsi Says:

    To Jason–I am interested that you do not seem to think RFP’s at the university are public. Why not?
    Your #6 point I find worrisome in that you make a huge assumption that the onus is on the companies to know where to look for RFP’s. I prefer to view this as a two-way street and the entity issuing the RFP might take additional step to place an RFP in different outlets to broaden the base of potential submissions. Getting the same ole same because the same outlets are always used truncates potential and possibility of receiving submissions from different companies.

  8. jason Says:

    Pattsi,

    I don’t assume any RFPs are private. On the contrary, the point of the RFP is to get as many people to respond as possible, so anything less than full promotion is doing a disservice. But how would you go about notifying local businesses about an RFP? I would argue that if the business wants the work, they should know where the University (or school district) announces RFPs, and follow that source. It’s a lot less work to have everyone look for announcements in one place, than to push the announcement to everyone who you think might respond.

    But yes, you do want as many bids as possible. If local businesses aren’t looking in the right place to get notified, then they either need to be informed on where RFPs will post, or the RFPs need to be posted where they are already looking.


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