Sunday, March 14, 2010

Questions on consultants continue to haunt School District 52 deliberations

The departure of former Superintendent Eric Mercer and the events that followed his leave taking are still proving to be of popular interest both locally and further afield.

Spurred on by a recent George T. Baker article in the Daily News (sorry they have no archive from which to deliver it) which was based on a Freedom of Information request by the Prince Rupert District Teachers Association, the costs associated with the hiring of a consultant (Gary Doi) and the continued use of the interim replacement for Mr. Mercer (Dave Stigant) until November of 2009, are once again being questioned.

The issue has also rekindled the interest of the Vancouver Sun's Education reporter Janet Steffenhagen, who has featured the controversial payments in her most recent postings to her blog Report Card.

In her posting she reviews her past unsuccessful efforts to gain information on the issue and recounts some of the Baker story from the Daily News. Providing some of the arithmetic that has raised the eyebrows of locals.

From the blog she reviews the cost of consultant Doi's contribution to the executive search for a replacement for Mr. Mercer, 23,000 dollars worth of effort, for which he recommended Lynn Hauptman, a former co worker of his and a former employee of School District 52.

Steffenhagen also tallies up the costs of the interim Superintendent Dave Stigant who collected $52,083, plus allowances for his replacement duties after the Mercer departure for five months of work prior to the hiring of Mrs. Hauptman.

Such were Mr. Stigant's results that the school district apparently kept him on into November of last year, acting as a consultant to the District.

Steffenhagen's blog recounts details of the Baker story which had the School District paying $37,241 from July 1 to November 30 for his services, though Steffenhagen isn't sure exactly what Mr. Stigant provided for that total, and apparently is still waiting for a reply from the School District for answers to that and a few other items of interest to her.

Her blog item provides a fairly interesting review of the developments since her still unfulfilled request for further information from a year ago (originally told that there was no record of a contract, she found the PRDTA's FOI results a rather interesting surprise development) , of particular note to the debate over conslutants is her presentation of the receipts and such involved in the contracts for services. A rather lengthy list of meal chits, taxi payments, air fare reimbursements and the occasional Professional Service stipend, which doesn't really explain what the services might have been.

The latest information is certainly illuminating, but the issue is hardly new. As far back as the first rumblings of the departure of Mr. Mercer, locals were wondering what exactly was going on at the School District, the less than transparent efforts of the School District surrounding Mr. Mercer's departure leaving far more questions than answers.

As can be found from our past items on the blog, the tumultuous events of the day certainly found a certain constituency among stakeholders and parents as they developed in 2009.

June 29, 2009-- Are the wheels on the School district administrative bus falling off?
April 23, 2009-- The Mercer departure continues to raise interest from afar
April 7, 2009-- Superintendent Mercer’s departure continues to percolate on the local scene
March 30. 2009-- A school District 52 mystery that has intrigued the Vancouver media
March 28, 2009-- A familiar name returns to School District 52

That it is still now a hot issue again, if not even hotter than it was then, is surely of consideration for the School District that perhaps it might be time to explain exactly why those decisions were made at the time. How the costs as have been outlined on the Report Card blog are justified and how, if at all, those decisions may have impacted on other decisions such as the string of school closures of the past years and those that are under consideration today.

This whole episode has local residents peeling away at layer after layer of the mystery and finding that each step leaves you less informed than the previous one and less receptive to the District's talking points than perhaps they might have been in the past.

The recent review of the issue has proven to be a popular topic on the local information portal hackingthemainframe.

The still unresolved questions over a one year old human resources decision runs the risk of overtaking the current focus on school configuration, school closures and potential changes to staffing levels, all of which are vital and of concern to the community at this time.

The School District might want to get out ahead of the news cycle with some answers on this one, before it has too many fires to put out at one time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Baker's article is available online: