Christina board OKs $49K study of discipline issues
No-bid contract awarded to former district administrator
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.”