Christina board OKs $49K study of dis­ci­pline is­sues

No-bid con­tract awarded to for­mer district ad­min­is­tra­tor

Newark Post - - Local News - By JES­SICA IAN­NETTA jian­netta@ches­

As part of its ef­fort to gather in­for­ma­tion on ways to im­prove school cli­mate and dis­ci­pline, the Christina School District Board of Ed­u­ca­tion has awarded a $49,250 no-bid con­tract to a con­sult­ing firm run by a for­mer district em­ployee.

In a 4-2 vote on Tues­day night, the board agreed to hire De­mosophia LLC, a con­sult­ing firm run by for­mer CSD ad­min­is­tra­tor Andy Hege­dus, to sup­port the district as it looks for ways to im­prove school cli­mate and dis­ci­pline. Board pol­icy doesn’t re­quire bids on con­tracts of less than $50,000, but board mem­bers El­iz­a­beth Paige and John Young ex­pressed con­cern about the process of award­ing the con­tract and whether the district has ex­plored all avail­able op­tions.

“I think this is ex­actly the stew­ard­ship that we are asked for as a board in look­ing af­ter th­ese ref­er­en­dum monies to make sure that there’s trans­parency around ven­dor se­lec­tion and bid pro­cesses,” Young said. “And then this is go­ing to a for­mer CSD em­ployee? I just think there’s too much that doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right to me.”

De­mosophia spe­cial­izes in help­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions solve com­plex prob­lems by gath­er­ing in­put from stake­hold­ers, and its con­tract with CSD has three phases, with a de­liv­er­able at the end of each phase, said Bob Silber, the school district’s CFO who pre­sented the con­tract rec­om­men­da­tion.

The first phase will con­sist of pub­lic fo­rums, stake­holder in­ter­views and data anal­y­sis and will re­sult in cre­at­ing a white pa­per de­tail­ing what De­mosophia has dis­cov­ered about school cli­mate and dis­ci­pline in the district. The sec­ond phase will in­clude “fo­cused dia­logues” and re­sult in the cre­ation of in­flu­ence maps to help iden­tify strate­gic pri­or­i­ties. In the fi­nal phase, De­mosophia will help iden­tify what the district should do with all the in­for­ma­tion and how any so­lu­tions might be im­ple­mented, Silber said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, De­mosophia will help form and sup­port a District School Cli­mate Com­mit­tee that will over­see the en­tire process, he said.

Hege­dus mod­er­ated a well-at­tended board work­shop on school cli­mate and dis­ci­pline last month and pro­vided the board with a de­tailed tran­script of all the thoughts that were shared dur­ing the work­shop. How­ever, Young and Paige said they weren’t aware that Hege­dus would be mod­er­at­ing that work­shop un­til they ar­rived and didn’t know who had hired him.

Christina School District spokes­woman Wendy Lapham said the ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted a high de­gree of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment at that work­shop and signed a one-time con­tract with Hege­dus to fa­cil­i­tate the meet­ing and pro­vide the tran­script.

Board pres­i­dent Har­rie Ellen Min­nehan, board vice pres­i­dent Fred Po­laski and board mem­bers David Resler and Ge­orge Evans all voted to ap­prove the con­tract, not­ing the district has his­tor­i­cally had a hard time gath­er­ing stake­holder in­put and needs a new ap­proach.

As part of the district ref­er­en­dum that passed last month, the board pledged to put $1 mil­lion to­ward ad­dress­ing school cli­mate and dis­ci­pline is­sues. Min­nehan said the lack of school dis­ci­pline is one of the main things driv­ing peo­ple out of the district and has gone un­ad­dressed too long.

“What Mr. Hege­dus pre­sented takes a look at it in a dif­fer­ent way than this district has ever done be­fore, look­ing at the root causes of what the cli­mate is­sues are and not sug­ar­coat­ing it,” she said. “I think it’s worth try­ing.”

De­mosophia has worked with many other schools on strate­gic plan­ning pro­cesses, in­clud­ing Cap­i­tal School District in Dover and Unionville-Chadds Ford School District in Penn­syl­va­nia, Hege­dus said. He worked for CSD in a num­ber of ad­min­is­tra­tive roles for about six years but left the district about six years ago, he added.

Hege­dus noted that part of the process of gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion about school cli­mate and dis­ci­pline in­cludes a strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions plan and that the CSD com­mu­nity can ex­pect a lot of in­for­ma­tion about the process to come out of the district of­fice in the next few weeks.

But, he noted, what makes De­mosophia dif­fer­ent from other com­pa­nies is that it’s not just an in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing firm.

“It’s not so much about get­ting in­for­ma­tion,” he said. “It’s a method that al­lows peo­ple to work to­gether to solve com­plex prob­lems.”


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