We have written several times about a contract for $536,000 awarded earlier this year to Class Measures, a consulting firm in Massachusetts. See here and here.

Frankly, this has been a very hard-to-believe tale from day one when an RFP went out requesting that the consultant would be someone familiar with an assessment program used in the United Kingdom known as OFSTED.

Here’s a summary of what took place.  The RFP went out and only three proposals were received.  One from a company that clearly did not have the OFSTED experience needed.  One from Massachusetts and one from Virginia.

After evaluation the Massachusetts firm was selected.

The “official” explanation I got from the state department of education was that superintendent Mike Sentance had nothing at all to do with the process.  He did not know what was in the RFP and had no input at all in the process and did not know who the chosen vendor was until the evaluation team told him.

So why does this not pass the smell test?

  • When Mike Sentance applied for the superintendent’s job last year, he stated in his cover letter: “My plan incorporated aspects of the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspection program as part of the annual formative review.”  So we knew months before the RFP that he was familiar with OFSTED, while no one in Alabama seems to have ever heard of it.
  • Sentance’s resume’ says that from January 2011 to August 2011 he was President, Education Reform Strategies for TRIBAL GROUP (USA).  (Sentance has said that he was fired from this position.)  This is the parent group for Class Measures.  In fact, a power point given to Montgomery County school system personnel about this company’s assessment of failing schools in the system lists Tim Boyce of Tribal Group as contact.
  • The “official” line for the state department is that the Office of Student Learning put the OFSTED specs in the RFP.  The second bid submitted came from Edwards Educational Services, Inc. Steve Edwards asked the state department who in that department had expertise with OFSTED and did not get a clear answer.   He was only told that Shanthia Washington is director of this office and she requested OFSTED..
  • Reliable sources have indicated that there was little doubt before the evaluation of bids of who the superintendent wanted to be chosen.

Yet, here’s what we are to believe.  Mike Sentance comes to Alabama having once worked for a consultant firm that uses methodology no one in Alabama knows anything about.  He announces that the state department will intervene in the Montgomery County school system.  He decides that no one at the state department is competent enough to conduct school assessments and a consultant must be brought in.

He tells someone the department should hire a consultant, which means they will respond to an RFP.  However, he has NOTHING to do with the RFP.

And miracle of miracles, that company in Massachusetts he worked for is selected by a group of four evaluators who are evaluating a methodology they know little about to get a $536,000 contract.

Recently I visited Hazel Green elementary in Madison County that received a small $500 grant from the Rural Schools Collaborative last year that they used to conduct hearing and vision screening on the first day of school for 137 kindergarteners.  Too often children who have hearing and sight problems end up in special ed classes because their issues have not been discovered.

It cost about $3.65 per child for this service at Hazel Green.  There are 55,474 children in Alabama public school kindergarten this year.  So for $202,500 (less than one-half of what we are sending to Massachusetts for this consulting contract) we could test every child.

In my book, that is a helluva lot better use of money than what is described above.