During the Colonial School District’s School Board meeting on Thursday, February 15th transparency was again a concern of members of the school board and parents. This concern erupted over how issuing a RFP to seek bids for architecture work was handled.
As you probably know, the Colonial School District is in the midst of building new buildings and renovating others to be prepared for a projected increase in enrollment. Thus far the School District has worked with the architecture firm Godshall Kane O’Rourke Architects, LLC.
During the meeting the transparency issue arose when Board Vice-President Leslie Finegold stated it was the “consensus” of the board to instruct the Superintendent to issue a RFP to seek other architects to bid on the work. You can watch this statement in the video above. The video starts with a facilities report from Eunice Franklin-Becker. Finegold then mentions the RFP.
Consensus is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a generally accepted opinion or decision among a group of people.”
The problem with Finegold’s use of the word consensus is that it there appears to not have been one. When watching the video you will learn that the RFP originated as her idea and she discussed it with Board President Felix Raimondo. According to Finegold the other members were to be called and polled on the issue. Please note that Raimondo was not at the meeting.
Board Members Susan Moore and Mel Brodsky claimed that while they did receive a phone call from Raimondo, it was not a call to ask their opinion, but to inform them the decision had been made. Moore also offered that Board Member Cathy Peduzzi, who was not in attendance at the meeting, told Moore that she got the same call.
Board Members Adam Schupack and Eunice Franklin-Becker reported getting a call and having a discussion about the issue. Board members Rosemary Northcutt and Jennifer Dow claimed that they did not receive a call.
So buy our count, that is five members stating they had no input on the topic and four having a discussion about it. That isn’t exactly consensus.
Please note that the issue at the heart of this is not the RFP or what it costs for an architect. The issue is how the School Board conducts business. A similar issue arose over issuing a RFP for legal services.
Once the discussion between the Board Members concluded, it was time for public comment (or as the agenda listed it as “Questions or Comments from the Floor.” As you will find in the video above (it has the same screen image, but it starts at a different spot), Finegold starts to say the agenda item as it is written on the agenda and stops herself mid-sentence. The solicitor then interjects and states that the Board will not answer any questions. While he is right that they don’t have to answer questions, just at the last meeting the Board Members answered a bunch of questions.
Watch the public comment all the way through. They really let the board have it.
We would also like to thank whoever made the decision to place the district’s video on YouTube.com. The system the district was using was brutal. Now if we can just get the Borough of Conshohocken and Whitemarsh Township to do the same.