Planning consultant parts company with Brunswick schools

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BRUNSWICK — A Vermont consulting company hired by the School Department to help with a strategic planning process has scrapped the project, according to a letter from the company’s president.

“We believe it is in both our best interest and the district’s best interest to terminate this work,” Marty Jacobs, president of Systems in Sync, said in a letter addressed to Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski.

The superintendent said the majority of School Board members were not interested in the second  proposal made by Systems in Sync. The consulting company would have helped guide the board in the strategic planning process and with how to engage the community. 

“It’s a disappointment because we’ve been working on (the strategic plan) for three years,” Perzanoski said after Wednesday night’s School Board meeting. “We’re going to have to do something more palatable now.”

The superintendent added that the department will not seek another consultant after this.

Instead, Perzanoski said the board and the administration will use a book by businessman and attorney Jamie Vollmer, “Schools Cannot Do It Alone.”

“We’re going to look at using his work to do the process,” the superintendent said.

The process will including seeking input from the community about the school system, including “what they’re satisfied with, what they’re not and what budgeting mechanisms could be used for finance options,” Perzanoski said.

The School Board previously voted 5-2 to begin negotiating a contract with Systems in Sync after an executive session at its Feb. 8 meeting, according to the meeting’s minutes.

The board then voted unanimously 10-0 on March 14 to postpone work with the company until the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, according to the meeting’s minutes.

However, in July, the board expressed uncertainty in about excluding members from System in Sync’s proposed Steering Committee for the planning process, according to School Board member Michelle Small.

The committee would have been composed of two administrators, two board members, four teachers, three community members and two students, according to the minutes from the School Board’s Aug. 8 meeting.

Small said Jacobs wanted to only have two School Board members on the committee, “in part, so that it did not have to comply with the public notice requirements.”

Jacobs then withdrew that proposal after the Aug. 8 board meeting and presented another one that would have cost the school more than $28,000, according to documents provided by Small.

“After meeting with the Brunswick School Board on Aug. 8, (Jacobs) and (a co-worker) have concluded that there is an urgent need to prepare the board before undertaking our proposed approach to strategic planning,” said an excerpt from System in Sync’s second proposal, which was attached to an Aug. 20 letter sent to Perzanoski.

Small said this proposal, which was meant as more of a way to prepare the School Board and the community for the strategic planning process, would have been a separate cost from the actual planning process itself, which was projected to cost more than $50,000.

Systems in Sync was mentioned in Perzanoski’s Aug. 17 welcome letter to staff, which dedicated the first three paragraphs to criticizing Gov. Paul LePage’s education policy. Perzanoski came under fire from the LePage administration and other critics for his use of school tender to make political remarks.

While the nature and contents of the superintendent’s letter were briefly mentioned by School Board Vice Chairwoman Corinne Perrault – who said she received equal amounts of praise and criticism from the public – there was no formal discussion of the remarks.

The School Board entered an executive session near the end of the meeting “to discuss a personnel matter,” but no action was taken after the board reconvened in public.

Earlier in the meeting, one resident spoke in support of the substance of Perzanoski’s letter.

“I wanted to say to the superintendent on behalf of myself, I really appreciate your frustrations,” Sarah Singer said. “I’m not going to comment whether the form was appropriate, but I support your ongoing commitment to the schools.”

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him onTwitter: @DylanLJMartin.