Given: Dejong-Richter was hired to do a comprehensive high school site planning project on September 10, 2012 for $116,800 (still on the Unit 4 RFP Awards page).
Given: The Alves Educational Consultant Group was hired to write software to process school assignments for 2013-2014 on August 13th, 2012 for $92,000, not including extra billable hours ($100/hour) nor travel expenses (from Boston) (reference: Response to RFP – a horrible scanned copy of a document that is not word-searchable).
[When I say "Alves" below, I am referring to the Alves Educational Consultant Group, previously known as Enrolled Edu]
DeJong has been very open with the data they have found; they have very nice presentations, they have a workable website for Unit 4 with lots of documents, they have held lots of meetings and invited the public, they have shared out what they have found, and they even come out to Houlihans. They play nice.
Alves, on the other hand…. *sigh*. We have been sending them checks since at least 2005 (we actually hired the firm back in 2002, but I have not been able to get the checks that far back – I was told “they were lost”, along with so many other things). Of the information I have, we have given Alves $612,700 to date (includes the figures from my post, in addition to figures listed on BoardDocs from the August 13th Board Meeting). I use the word “given” judiciously. Alves does not share data well at all. They have horrible “bedside manners“, and its on our dime if they ever travel out here. I have had to repeatedly ask for breadcrumbs about the status of “Choice”, and even asking about all the committees, I still see the “Choice Committee” is not in the list. I don’t get it.
So I am wondering at this point, all those who are so concerned about how much money the district spends, why is there not much of an outcry about Alves? The only conclusion I can draw is that folks simply do not know. The Futures Facilities is a big deal. I get that. But when you compare Alves to DeJong, DeJong is looking pretty good and at a very decent price. Yes, I still have issues with some aspects of DeJong (and I mentioned a couple at Houlihans on Tuesday), but they are golden when you set them up against the “service” we receive from Alves.
Here is what I want to come out of this. We must demand better service. I do not advocate calling up the board members nor the administration and complaining. Yes, we have spent an egregious amount of money on Alves. That is water under the bridge. I propose we find the right words to compel Unit 4 to contract with a local company (we have at least 5 local software vendors who have expressed an interest, not to mention the University). [previous posts: 1, 2, 3] The first step is rewriting the RFP so it is friendly for local businesses, and perhaps even provides a local incentive. I do not know the full limits of the law, but I have been told that it is legally acceptable, and often practiced, to collaborate with vendors on writing an RFP. That sounds fishy to me and I would think that would be a clear conflict of interest, so I am asking those of you that have experience in this field for suggestions on how to move forward.
Here are the local firms I have introduced to Dr. Wiegand (if you know of others, please let me know):
I must qualify my statements and make it clear that I do not wish to cast the person of Michael Alves as a “bad person”. I have read a couple of his books and I have spoken with him in person – I believe he has really good intentions, and he obviously has a wealth of knowledge and experience in Education that far surpasses my own. Rather, my chagrin is focused on the Alves company at large and the service they have provided (or lack thereof) to Unit 4. I am most concerned about my tax dollars.