January 26, 2014 3:07 am ET
School board president Schmidt also signs on dotted line while investigation in Chicago continues
There is a term in the medical field known as Behavior Modification, which is defined as follows:
“The use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques to increase or decrease the frequency of behavior…”
To put it bluntly, I think our county school board needs some behavior modification, as the members have not learned their lesson concerning some serious ethical lapses.
Case in point—the recent ethics investigation (if there indeed is one) into Dr. Dance’s work for the SUPES Academy, as well as his subsequent signing of a contract with that company in a no-bid (piggyback) deal. All of this raises some serious questions regarding the school board’s actions in this matter.
And please don’t get me started on the fact that nobody has been held accountable for these issues. But I will digress on that for a moment.
After the county’s previous encounters with Dr. Hairston’s ethical faux pas, you would think someone on that school board would learn a lesson. But in this case, it’s the same old song.
What truly disturbs me is that this seems to be the standard operating procedure (SOP) in Baltimore County.
Now that we have a copy of the contract (see Signed Sealed Delivered), we can get a better idea of how this whole issue went down, as well as the serious implications it raises in terms of ethical conduct.
It all began in the Gateway Arch city of St. Louis, the city that signed a contract with SUPES Academy for the following services:
08-23-12-05 To approve a contract with The SUPES Academy to provide training for principals by means of the program, “Preparing Aspiring Certificatred Educators” (PACE) for the period August 10, 2012 throught August 9, 2013 at a total cost not to exceed $125,000.
Now the connections to Chicago lead to both to the current superintendant, Dr. Dance, and to Joe Hairston, a former Baltimore County superintendent; add to that a connection to Chris Johns, a former Baltimore County administrator. All three have a connection to SUPES, as told by the Sun’s Liz Bowie. Here is an interesting quote from Liz’s article:
“Joe Hairston, a former Baltimore County superintendent, and Chris Johns, a former Baltimore County administrator, are also working for SUPES to train administrators.”
The Dance connection to Chicago is documented in the following from the same article:
“Dance’s second job prompted questions about the propriety of his working for a company that does business with the school system, training its principals. It also raised concerns about the superintendent taking the time to train educators in other states when Baltimore County schools are undergoing changes that have drawn complaints from teachers”
Also, county officials acknowledged that Dr. Dance brought the SUPES Academy concept to the school board.
That, dear readers, is just more fuel for the fire.
The county is claiming justification for the no-bid contract of $875,000 with SUPES by stating that they simply piggybacked onto the current contract with St. Louis.
However, this raises more questions concerning the ethics of such a lucrative deal, not only for SUPES, but also for Dr. Dance, Joe Hairston, and Chris Johns. After all, at least two of the three are on the SUPES payroll!
Dr. Dance withdrew from SUPES after the story broke in the media.
When you look at the county’s website under Procurement for Vendors, this is the only reference to the term piggybacking:
“The County may ‘Piggy-back’ contracts of other jurisdictions as long as it is not in conflict with the County’s policy and procedures.”
Now, in order to get a better understanding of how this verbiage is legally applied, there are some more interesting documents to gaze upon. This is where the ethical issues really have a bite, because the language is crystal clear:
31.2. In accordance with §15-811 through §15-815 of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, the Board of Education of Baltimore County has promulgated Ethics Policies which cover conflict of interest, financial disclosure and lobbying. All Consultants are expected to comply with any and all Board Ethics Policies that may apply to them individually or as a business entity.
It even goes further in the requirements:
31.3. All Consultants should review carefully the conflict of interest policies. Specific attention should be accorded to the Board Ethics Policies (Board Policy 8363) prohibiting Baltimore County Public Schools employees from benefiting from business with the school system.
31.4. All Consultants are placed on notice that all questions/interpretations concerning the Board Ethics Policies may be submitted to the Ethics Review Panel in accordance with Board Policy 8366.
Now if that isn’t enough there is this:
Members of the Board of Education of Baltimore County (Board), the Superintendent, employees, consultants, and volunteers (hereinafter, “School System Official”) shall not participate on behalf of the school system in any matter which would, to their knowledge, have a dire direct financial impact, as distinguished from the public generally, on them, their immediate family, or a business entity with which they are affiliated.
Now, can someone please explain to me how Dr. Dance has been allowed to bring this contract to the school board without reading the bold fine print before going to work for said company (SUPES)?
I didn’t think so…
Okay, then let’s go beyond that for a moment and look at the bang for the buck aspect, which is also covered in plain print.
The contract calls for the county to spend $875,000 to train 75 potential principals. In a nutshell, we are looking at spending about $11,666 per candidate. You can’t convince me that in this state, which claims to be number one in everything except turtle races, we could not find an institution “in house,” so to speak, to provide this “training.”
To that end, let me leave you with my final bit of legal speak for this post:
“Subject to §12-107 of this article, whenever a primary procurement unit procurement officer determines that it is in the best interest of the State to sponsor or participate in an intergovernmental cooperative purchasing agreement, with the approval of the unit head and subject to any other approval required by law, the primary procurement unit may become a party to or participate under the agreement.”
Up next in this saga, I will take a look at who is accountable for this mess.