Board members Douglass, Palmisciano, Super Culp, Evans, Tres. Collier, Truett, Pres. Brannan did not attend.
The school board set up a short notice special meeting at 8:15 in the morning on October 18th, and announced the immediate end of the relationship with Harrison Planning Group, citing “unprofessional behavior and attacks on board and task force members” (according to member Truett), and claiming that HPG did not want to continue working with the board.
The board picked Harrison Planning Group in January of this year, signing a $67K contract to do facility assessment (with an option for $27K more for further service), produce documentation of facility replacement costs, facilitate meetings with the public to explain those documents, and recommendations for directions the school could take in upgrading the schools. HPG attended the first facility meeting with the public on Aug. 24, and presented the findings on the school facilities.
The board’s explanation for the break with HPG
Board member Jessie Truett, on the facility committee, spend most of the 8:15 AM meeting explaining why the board is ending its relationship with HPG.
Truett said HPG was keeping some documents confidential, and didn’t live up to the “transparency” requested by the board (the word transparency is a favorite of Truett, he used it at least 15 times in the meeting).
This is an odd complaint from the board, were they saying that HPG was keeping some documents secretly, and not releasing them to the board? Because the only group that can release documents is the board, HPG was not expected to release them to the public (consultants release documents to the people who pay them).
Truett said HPG was making specific options for the facility process, and labeling them with dollar numbers. Apparently the board wanted something less specific, and was afraid the cost estimates would be used as hard figures.
The way you get exactly what you want from a consultant is to specify expected documents and the scope of the work to be done. If this doesn’t work as expected, is it a fault of the contractor? Or the board which was supposed to give good project scope instructions, and supervise the work output?
Finally, HPG was hired with the condition that they would not be eligible for any facility or architectural work done in the future at the school, in order to prevent any possibility that HPG might be self-dealing future contracts. This was acceptable to HPG. However, HPG was using sub-contractors who might be eligible for work at the school in the future.
According to Truett, when the board asked Kevin Harrison to not use any contractor who might bid on future work, “he took our request personally, responding in an unprofessional manner, verbally attacked members of the task force and the board of education, and responded that he didn’t want to work with us any more.”
Again, this points to a deficiency in the contract and scope of planning with HPG, if the board didn’t want sub-contracters with eligibility for future work, they should have said so. I’ve been told that the pool of firms which might do this sub-contracting is small, and finding any who would do the work with the stipulation of no future contracts would be nearly impossible.
Truett said that HPG had been paid for the work they had done, and was in possession of all documents that were created by HPG up to this point, and that the board would end the relationship with no financial entanglements.
This is questionable – as the creator of the facility documents that are the basis of the process, HPG was uniquely able to answer questions about how those assessments and projections were created. Any successor that will be facilitating the process from now on will be struggling to catch up. Is HPG expected to pass off the work product for free, and not be paid for any consultation with the new company?
What is HPG’s side of the story?
I don’t expect Kevin Harrison of HPG will do any responding for requests for his side of the story. It doesn’t help to re-litigate a bad ending.
We can guess how this might have gone down from his perspective. He might say he was given poor instructions, and he was simply doing what he has done in all the past work with schools.
Harrison Planning group list 33 years of experience in consulting and facilities construction, and a few of the local schools who have used the company are Miami-Trace Local Schools, Washington Courthouse, New Albany – Plain Local School District, New Albany, Dayton Regional Stem School , and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC).
If he was a difficult person to work with, I don’t think his resume would be this large. I’m guessing the problem was the board members who pushed for an outcome that was obviously what they wanted from the beginning – a recommendation to tear down and build new schools. A consultant who had integrity would resist this meddling with the process, and when pushed, tell them to shove it.
The facilities process continues
The Facility Task force will be meeting next week, and will be working to find a new firm to continue the Facility process with the community. Too bad you can’t attend and ask them what they think of the HPG mess – Superintendent Culp again said that the Task force is a closed group, and you can’t attend meetings.
So much for transparency
There were 13 community members that attended the morning meeting, much to the shock of the board (most morning meetings have no one but the board). Two of the attendees pointed out the poor action of the board in sneaking this bad news into a special morning session, when the board had a regular meeting at 7PM in the same day. They said the board is hiding its failure with HPG by making the announcement at a meeting that would have no attendees (message to clueless board members, word always gets out in a small town). The board tried to give a lame excuse that the facilities business was not on the regular meeting agenda, but plenty of regular meetings have revised agendas. And they did have time to announce a special morning meeting – they could have tacked it on to the evening, no issues at all.
(Later) Now that I have reviewed the video (posted below), I’m getting more ticked off at the way Truett handled this meeting. His response to the appropriate and not at all insulting questions about the morning meetings was for Truett to start talking about decorum at the board meeting, and how he doesn’t want to get in a discussion questioning if the board is making appropriate choices.
Superintendent Culp, sprouting a week’s worth of beard from a vacation that ended Monday, claimed he was responsible for the morning meeting. How lame can you get.
After the break, the video of the Board meeting.
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