- Requested Action
- Transcript – Work Session
- Transcript – Business Meeting
- 09/25/2013 – Original MLA Presentation
It is requested that the Board of Education authorize the payment of $50,000 per month plus costs for the work performed by McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP for the District from June 1, 2013 through September 30, 2013 and authorize the Superintendent to extend their contract for twelve additional months, effective as of October 1, 2013, for Phase II – Governance Implementation, as further described in the attached Exhibit.
Video – Work Session & Business Meeting
Work Session Agenda Item C. 19. – Extension of Contract with McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP for Installation of Governance Evaluation & Accountability Systems
We are asking the board to approve an extension of the contract with McKenna Long & Aldridge governance center for the installation of governance, evaluation and accountability system. This contract encompasses phase II of the initial work.
Phase II of the MLA governance review is the implementation phase and shall involve the installation of governance best practices systems, controls, culture, reporting systems utilizing developed metrics for each significant activity of the District, enterprise risk management, and other processes at both the administrative level and board level to address the governance related AdvancED Required Actions and to allow the District’s implementation and oversight governance functions to connect and enable meaningful oversight by the Superintendent of the administration and by the Board of Education of the DeKalb County School District of the enterprise.
Development/implementation of systems and principles to address the governance aspects of AdvancED Required Actions and directives. Development/implementation of systems with respect to:
* Building a mission driven culture
* Enterprise risk management
* Internal Audit
* Metrics and score card for all significant District activities
I ask for the board’s approval.
Thad Mayfield – The first question I have has to do with the scope of work that was presented in the original contract which deals with 3 months worth of work to summarize the findings and make such recommendations that may be appropriate. Because it doesn’t provide specific details or timelines to implement the recommendation, which is what this request is asking for. Should this be an extension or a new contract?
Chief Legal Officer of DeKalb County School District, Senator Ronald Ramsey
I see your point. The board would be within its parameters either way.
Thad Mayfield – Presented like this, we would be approving expenditures for specifics we don’t have details for in a document.
Interim Superintendent – I think we just laid out the details we intend to do in phase II. I’m not sure I understand the question.
Thad Mayfield – The documentation that was sent to support it outlined the work that would take place in Phase I. This was the findings and recommendations. It does not detail the original contract. This document I’ve just been handed represents the details of the specifics provided in phase II.
Interim Superintendent – Correct
Thad Mayfield – The second question is what the deliverables are associated with these specifics.
Interim Superintendent – I think they are in that document you have in your hand. It’s exhibit II.
Ramona Tyson – It was in the packet list. Ms Francois, please verify that it was sent electronically.
Orson – It was not in the packet I received. This is one of the things Mr. Mayfield … it’s hard to make an evaluation …
Interim Superintendent – It was not in anyone’s packet?
Dr. Erwin – It was not in mine.
Interim Superintendent – Well, it should have been.
Thad Mayfield – My third question has to do with the performance of Phase I as it might relate to additional terms and conditions that need to be included in Phase II. Phase I timeline exceeded its timeline by 100%. I wanted to ask whether or not there should be proposed terms and conditions that we should recommend to avoid or mitigate that happening in Phase II.
Interim Superintendent – I think the work we had outlined in Phase I was actually completed. The time lag occurred in getting a presentation before the board.
Thad Mayfield – Phase I was a 3 month agreement for $50 thousand a month. Now we’re asking to cover an additional 3 months.
Interim Superintendent – You can look at it that way. What originally occurred, if you remember, when I was first asked to come … well, you all weren’t here. You may not remember come to think of it. When I was invited to take this position, one of the things I laid out to the board was that I needed some expertise and support to address many of the issues the district was facing. One of the things I decided to do, strategically when I look back on it, based on history, you may have noticed I did not bring a team of new employees “wiff” me. That was done intentionally. My “successor”, as you all remember, and it was her prerogative, brought 25 or 30 people into the district. Also, moved and/or laid off about that many at the senior management level. In my initial evaluation, I found that to be very disruptive at many levels if not counter productive.
So, what I decided to do, was basically maintain the people in place and utilize outside consultants and resources to assist me in what was a situation in deep crisis. That began the process of healing which has brought us to the point where we are today.
Thad Mayfield – Because of the past performance in Phase I, do we need additional terms and conditions in Phase II’s contract to prevent a doubling of the time and financial resources required to execute Phase II
Interim Superintendent – You have to look at what was being done in Phase I. For instance, the rewriting of the retainer agreement with Kind & Spalding. You can’t put a time phase into how and when that got done. But, as a result of their support we were able to save $30 million dollars potentially for the district. I would have hoped to get that done within a week or a month, but that was something that bedeviled the district for the last 5 to 8 years.
Thad Mayfield – So you’re saying that particular negotiation was part of this particular agreement?
Interim Superintendent – No. I’m saying they assisted me in developing the strategy that needed to be developed in order to get that done. Something that evaded the district for years. I utilized on an ongoing basis their advice and consultation in order to do it.
Thad Mayfield – So, it was outside the scope of the original agreement?
Interim Superintendent – No. My job was to, number one get the fiscal house in order. Having that potential hanging over the district, has been and to some extent continues to be a major challenge. But, rewriting the contract was one of the saving graces we had in the recent evaluation they did at the district.
Thad Mayfield – I agree, but it wasn’t part of the original agreement with MLA. I’m trying to understand the relationship here …
Interim Superintendent – It’s governance. The fact we find ourselves in the situation we’re in as it relates to the Heery litigation, is a perfect example of failed governance at the board level. It might be the most glaring example. When you look at the fact that this district has spent $20 million dollars in a lawsuit that began over a dispute over $500 thousand dollars. That’s the lack of governance.
Thad Mayfield – My fourth question has to do with the steps the board should commence to enter into Phase II. Is it appropriate for the board, as the governing body, to review the recommendations that are made to determine which of the recommendations we will in fact implement.
Interim Superintendent – Absolutely.
Thad Mayfield – Just stopping there. If we have to decide what those recommendations are, do we need a forum for approving implementation? Do we need a session for that.
Interim Superintendent – That’s up to the chair and I work at the disposal of the chair and board.
Melvin Johnson – Naturally, we’ll do whatever the board wishes to do in that regard.
Dr. Joyce Morley
My understanding is that when looking at the original contract … everybody knows that when we came in, there was a bunch of stuff going on. Even though there was a prediction and an amount given to handle that, the Heery case came back up front where he had an opportunity to deal with that. So, that extended the amount of time. So, there wasn’t a double dipping per se that we had to double the amount of time.
Another thing is, if we are asking him to carry out the duties on what he agreed to when he first took on this contract, was that he would be able to have the consultants. And, so, for us to tell him what we are going to approve for him to get the job done, then we are going back the same that the other board did when they were telling the other Superintendents in how to be able to do what they are doing. So, if the Superintendent is saying this is what I need to be able to carry these duties out to get us back to govern. We’re governing the Superintendent in the organization, but at the same time, here are the duties, here’s what I need. Would it behoove us to be the ones to tell him what he needs to do in order to get that done. Are we not here to be able to support him, give him the authority to be able to do the things he has already said he needed. Because of the fact, when we look at the last 9 months. We are seeing that everything that this Superintendent has brought to bare has been more effective, has been expeditious, has saved this district money, has actually stated what a district is supposed to do and it has been done. When we start looking at deciding what we’re going to tell him to do to do that, then again, I go back to the question I “axed” before, do we need a Superintendent?
I’m not understanding the agreement McKenna Long & Aldridge presented to us that we are being asked to extend as it relates to executive action as compared to governance. I interpret this governance issue as a board issue. In order to implement the governance component they are recommending, it is the board that needs to decide what elements, or at least contribute to the decision, of what elements need to be included in the implementation of the governance changes.
It’s a generally perceived notion that governance is a board issue, but it’s not. Governance goes to every employee in the district. And, how we interact with our external stake holders who are not employees. One of the big mistakes is not how you all interact at board meetings. Governance is how a school bus driver interacts with a parent who might be upset about something that occurred on the bus. It’s how I interact with custodian or a janitor. Governance is every aspect of this school district, how we relate to one another, do we have a common idea or goals or objectives about what we are here for and what are the priorities of the district. So, it’s not just the board, it’s everybody.
When people say we have a governance issue, people look at the board. That’s really not the problem in DeKalb. The board really represents the organization and if you have issues internally they manifest themselves here at this level. So, we have to begin to build a new culture that permeates every aspect of DeKalb County School District. I think we are on our way to doin’ it, but we have a long way to go.
Mayfield – I don’t disagree with you. I just disagree right now with the proposal to implement a set of governance management activities that does not include board input.
Interim Superintendent – No. I’m sorry. That’s not the proposal. Everything I do, the only person that could really do it is me. And, I work at the command and control of the board. So, I can’t do anything without the support of the board. Obviously, a contract or vendor could not implement a policy that hadn’t been approved by this board.
I understand that. But, I’m understanding the components of deliverables that are associated with this particular contract, which is being asked to be extended, is not about the administration of bus drivers. It is about the governance of the system. And, that the governance of the system is primarily the responsibility of the board. Therefore, the types of items that need to be included in the agreement need to reflect the governance issues the board is concerned with.
The board passes, develops and implements policy. It’s not governance. We think of governance as command and control. The board’s job is to develop policy, hire a Superintendent, make sure he or she is accountable to the board. The governance I’m referring to actually does impact buses, because it was a failed governance that resulted in us having buses that were continuously and chronically late. That was a governance issue. When our students don’t achieve at the levels at which they should, that is a governance issue because that means the people who sit in my seat and people who sit in your seat have not in the past developed a comprehensive strategy that takes the resources that are available through Race To The Top and others. And invest them in a way that will support academic performance and achievement in the class.
I submit to you that is a governance issue. If our children are failing, that means the people in positions of authority have failed to do their job.
To follow up on my friend Mr. Mayfield. I have some concerns that are being expressed by Mr. Mayfield at a couple of different levels. And, I was a supporter of the original engagement of MLA because I saw the need for a broad scope review to the level you described that was taking place in the system. I am concerned that there was mission creep without the authorization of the board because we authorized and engagement of $150 thousand dollars over a period of time for a very specific set of actions. That has somehow, even before we get to the extension, doubled in its amount. And, some thins are not to diminish, for example, the work that was done with King & Spalding on Heery. Some of it was done even before MLA, because we had met with council and started to lay the groundwork.
Interim Superintendent – We had one meeting.
Well, but I think we started to lay the groundwork of where the board and the direction might be in. Not to diminish the work of MLA, but it’s important to recognize that if that was added into the scope and also ultimately into the cost of their engagement, it was never anything that was brought before the board. I understand that can happen for a while, but that is essentially, over a 3 month period, that the cost doubled.
Secondly, to Mr Mayfield’s point, I don’t have any comfort with furthering the engagement at a level would be $600 thousand additional dollars. A total of $750 thousand if you add the $150 thousand from the Summer. Without really understanding the scope and details of whether it’s the scope and details of what we want in that further engagement. We are in one of those tricky areas, with respect to Dr. Morley, because while they are engaged in governance advice, as a law firm and as council can probably tell you when it comes to the control of law firms and school boards and school systems, it’s a very murky area under the law in Georgia as to whether that belongs to the school board or to the administration.
In fact, if you look at how our budgets work, particularly to legal services, they are put against school boards in the state of Georgia. We pay for them, so that adds … It’s the one thing in Georgia law that is not as clear cut in terms of what the relationship is of the board and the administration to the provision and acquisition of those services.
So, the larger problem for me is I don’t have the comfort to authorize what would be a total expenditure of $750 thousand dollars without really knowing what we’re getting and it’s more detailed than what’s in this document we just got. And, whether we want that breadth of services or do we want something more narrowly confined that might also be less expensive.
Interim Superintendent – First of all, not legal services. You used the term legal services. We didn’t hire them for legal services.
Orson – I understand that. But, there’s a gray area when we start talking about an engagement with another law firm which relates to a lawsuit, I think it becomes gray.
Interim Superintendent – No. I said they advise me. That was the statement.
Orson – I understand, but were they advising you concerning our relationship with one of our law firms.
No. They were advising me as to how I could solve a problem that no one could seem to be able to solve. It ultimately saved the district, potentially, $30 million dollars. Let me go forward with some of the other things that might help you to understand it.
In April of this year, I walked into a meeting where the former CFO was getting ready … or had directed my senior staff to cut an additional $25 million dollars from the budget and layoff 300 more people. What I had done prior to that because I had some concerns, they had the opportunity to interview, and I’ll go ahead and say it, Dr. Bell. They also, through their research, helped me to understand there may be some sources of revenue that our former people had overlooked. Based on that, I was able to engage “wiff” a neighbor to look at our budget. As a result, we didn’t lay off the 300 people. We didn’t cut the $25 million from the budget. And, we were able to find $27 million dollars that had been overlooked. That gets me to a $57 million dollar impact. As a result of that we have $9.5 million dollars in reserve. That’s $66 million dollars.
When we talk about fiscal impact, we need to talk about it in a more global sense. I’m back to were I was when I came in February. If I’m going on mission impossible, I get to pick who’s going “wiff” me. I’m not going on mission impossible and then you choose who my people will be. I said to the board then, that if I’m going to take this job that nobody else seemed to want, that everybody thought was basically impossible. A job that no one ever believed we could avoid losing accreditation or remaining in deficit for the next 3 to 4 years. We had an agreement. And the board at that time said, look if you will take this risk of your reputation, your career, we are going to support you. And, so we are back at that point again. It’s whether or not this board will maintain and keep its commitment.
Jim McMahan – Legal, does the Superintendent have the ability, from a board policy stand point, to spend $50 grand a month without board approval?
Senator Ramsey – The current board policy authorizes the Superintendent up to $100 thousand dollars.
I’m trying to find a solution for this. I understand we authorized a buck-fifty, or $150 thousand for this project. It took longer. Could the other $150 thousand fall under that policy? The second solution is, I think the Superintendent realizes this board of education supports him and his initiatives. This comes back to communication. I would feel more comfortable with further communication … more details. I do support our Superintendent, and MLA, and their governance team which is the best in the nation. Does this fall under the purview of under $100 thousand a month?
Senator Ramsey – It wouldn’t be $100 thousand a month. This really is a decision for the board and not the lawyers to decide.
McMahan – I’m asking from a policy standpoint.
Carter – The law say $50 thousand and no more than $100 thousand, so after two months it would have to be back here
Dr. Joyce Morley
I think we have to start looking at … we keep getting legalities confused with what we are here to do. We are the purveyors of policy. When this man took on this battle, there was an agreement made. One of the things I have a concern about, and I have voiced it over and over. And it’s when we came in here, we’ve come in and we want to keep tearing things apart. Nothing can be put together unless we go about it in a systematic way. It has to be methodically done. If we are going to contend to tell the Superintendent who he can hire and who he can have, this is a board of education, not a corporate board. I think there is a great difference. When you’re talking about legal, everything comes down to what the lawyers say. If you want somebody to lead, you have to give them permission. One of the things I’ve said to the board is we need to look at … I know a couple of you don’t like carvers book on board governance, it states specifically in there how you do it and it has been adopted by a lot of non profit organizations on how you govern as a board. But, to be able to tell a Superintendent and micro manage that this is a person you can or can not have, when it has been efficient and effective, you have to look at that. Has it been something that has not been efficient and effective? Have we not exceeded expectations. And, to sit and nit pick all the time about every little thing we’ve got to stop it. And we’ve got to look at what’s effective and what’s efficient and what’s in the best interest of our children. Because, to come up now and say, … and I hear what you’re saying Thad [Mayfield], but it’s not duplicating when it’s not part of the original, but it had to be done. So, if it took us 6 more months to be able to get something done, to get us out of a mess that we’ve been in the sewer for 10 years, and everybody has sat back here and watched this system just suck the blood out of our children, out of our families, and then we’re going to complain now. And the millions that have gone out the door. There’s a real problem. We need to be able to ask the Superintendent what do you need. And if it’s feasible and appropriate, if it’s not against the law, if it’s not draining everybody, then what do we need to do in order to come along side him and support him in his efforts to get this place where it needs to be. And, if we stop on every little turn style and try to find every little thing under every rock, we’re going to be belaboring the point and then the trust that the community is beginning to put in us, they ‘re going to begin to question to. Why every time something comes up that we’re looking at every little thing and saying what’s in the best interest. If I were Superintendent coming in. I’m an educator. And you have to understand from an educational perspective, there’s a total difference in an educational system than other organizations. You do need to have your own team. But, when this man comes in says we’re not going to lay off all these people, but I need to have the support I need. He could not do it without the support that has been there with him. And I think we have to look at this in a different perspective. And, all I’m asking us to do is just look at this in a panorama perspective, look at it and stop looking at it always from a legalistic or the money, yeah, money is very important, but what do we need now? Do we have it, can we make it go forward for this Superintendent to do the best job he can to get us to where we need to get to?
What I’m hearing is that first of all, I hear the Superintendent pleading to the board is what I need to be successful to take the district where you asked me to take the system, this is what I need. I did not bring in additional staff. I did not bring in permanent staff members that will be on the payroll forever. But this is what I need. I need direction, expertise, and support.
On the other end I hear board members saying that we support you but we want specifications in terms of what they will be doing.
There is a slight difference. I think what the Superintendent articulated in terms of the support he needs and got, I think he deserves it. I think if it was a contract for $1.2 million dollars, to make that happen, I think he deserves it. I don’t think this is the instrument to do it. This instrument is describing a governance … us meeting SACS requirements that is specific to us … to board governance. And, we are using this instrument to provide the support he needs. I think there needs to be a different agreement for what he just described in terms of the support he needs and whatever resources he needs to make that happen. I don’t think this is the instrument. It does not align with the perception of the support the governance structure of this institution needs to align itself with the needs of the children and the taxpayers. So, I don’t disagree with anything the Superintendent has offered, I just don’t think this is the instrument to extend to do that.
In our discussions with SACS, one of the things that must occur before December, and one of the things I’ve heard one of the board members speak to over and over again, is about metrics and standards and evaluation. Mr. Mayfield speaks to that all the time. We don’t have anybody on staff that can develop that system.
The key thing here, if we are going to get off probation, is developing a reporting system utilizing developed metrics for each significant activity of the district. I’ve heard Mr. Orson and Mr. Mayfield go back to that point each time one of my staff members present something. That does not exist now. We need to develop it. I don’t know anybody in the district who can do that. Unless we have it, it’s going to be much more difficult for us in 8 weeks.
I believe there are a number of institutions that are in operations and process design that are, in my opinion, more capable of being able to provide that administrative support that the operations needs. It’s a different conversation than governance.
As the Superintendent, I get to … don’t pick my team. Let me pick who I want to play wide receiver. I get the impression that you want to tie my hand behind my back and see if you can pull this off.
I’m saying this is not the instrument. The request asks for an extension of this contract. What the Superintendent is asking for is very different than governance including what SACS is asking for. This contract shouldn’t be extended to do what the Superintendent is asking to be done because it doesn’t articulate that. I’m asking that the Superintendent provide us with an agreement that articulates what he has articulated today for consulting support that he needs to do what he says he’s going to do.
I’m researching and getting ready to give a speech on board governance … what is it. It’s not about this. Where we go wrong in public education is our lack of understanding of governance as a whole, not just in DeKalb. But, we’ve gone … it’s impact every school board in the state if not in the nation because we have a very narrow view of what governance is. And, we associate it only “wiff” school boards. And it’s not. If you really read the literature of those who deal in governance at the corporate, at a private and public arena, is not the board. It’s the entire organization. It’s how I relate to my senior staff. It’s governance.
I’m questioning whether or not the definition you’re describing, in terms of the impact of governance, is A) what SACS is talking about when they speak to board governance, the items for our actions. But, I think you are write. The difference is in our interpretation of what governance is and whether or not we should have Superintendent support presented as governance.
Dr. Karen Carter
I think our common ground is if we could come back with a contract that leads with your 1,2,3s and incorporates what we have to be responsible for as a board back to SACS. So, it’s governance holistically is what I’m hearing you say. Then broken down into the pieces cause we are not where you are. We aren’t speaking that same language, so we need you to help us get there.
The point is, the first week in December it gotta happen. If we are going to meet this deadline, 1,2,3,4,5 have gotta happen. There is no alternative scenario. If we miss, 100,000 children will pay the price.
Morley – Thad, you’re looking for a clear agreement that has specific steps of what will be done, what the deliverables will be. A timeline, you’re looking for an overall contract. Is that right?
Mayfield – There is clearly a difference in definition of what our understanding and expectations are as it relates to governance.
Morley – And that’s the word that we might need to look at in that document. If that word were not in that document, would we be having the same discussion?
Mayfield – Even the supporting documentation speaks to the issue of governance.
Johnson – Maybe I can suggest that when we do come back with that proposal, he defines the definition of governance so we can understand as Dr. Carter was saying.
Orson – Point of order. So, are we just looking at tabling it for this evening?
Campbell – What time line will we operate under? We understand the Superintendent needs this as a resource. What kind of timeline do you need to work with the SACS requirements?
Interim Superintendent – The next step is to develop a contract assuming I get support from the board, then to sign it. That’s the next step. If I get approval, we can develop a contract that meets Mr. Mayfield’s philosophical concerns.
Campbell – So are we talking about waiting until the next meeting?
Interim Superintendent – If we can vote today, we can develop a contract and move on.
Orson – This is the cart and the horse. Until we know the details of the contract, I can’t vote in blank.
Mayfield – We need to see what we are voting on before voting on it.
Morley – Are we not voting on the services? We already know what services are being provided. Then the contract has to be put together before we can actually ratify the contract.
Mayfield – That’s not what the recommendation is that’s on the table. The recommendation on the table is to extend this agreement.
Interim Superintendent – Well, you would need a contact do it.
Mayfield – We need a proposal that outlines something different that what this contract, which was presented to us, as a tool by which we would acknowledge this recommendation.
Dr. Carter – I recommend that we replace this proposal with a contract the Superintendent drafts up that is consistent with what he has presented today for us to approve within a week.
Interim Superintendent – I think this is the problem. You can’t specifically state … cause then I’m going to hear mission creep. If an issue presents itself, then I can’t seek any council because it’s not specifically detailed in a contract.
Orson – If something goes from $150 thousand to $300 thousand dollars there is a sense that something has grown in great proportion.
Interim Superintendent – They’ve saved us $30 million to $50 million …
Orson – That isn’t to diminish the outcomes.
Interim Superintendent – That’s exactly what it is.
No. We have the responsibility by policy and by law to approve these things. I thing we have to feel sufficient informed about the scope of what we are approving. That’s our job under any practice of governance, even for the Carvers. It’s the practice. So, in this case, we support you bringing a proposal that defines the assistance and actions you need. We just need some definition around that to feel comfortable. We understand there are alterations around the scope of the contract that are still within the scope.
Senator Ronald Ramsey
Consistent with most actions brought before the board, the board is asked to give the Superintendent authority to negotiate and bind an agreement. That is what the Superintendent is asking the board to do here this evening. He has laid out the scope, the initial engagement letter does contemplate this second phase, so the Superintendent is simply asking the board of education to give him the authority to bind and negotiate the second phase of this agreement. That is consistent with what the board does month in and month out.
Interim Superintendent – Accept this time it comes real close to micro managing because you want to show me the agreement first. It’s kind of insulting actually.
Dr. Erwin – I don’t think that’s what the board is saying. I think the board wants to give you as much support as possible. But, the board just wants a little detail.
Interim Superintendent – But this is not the process the board uses.
Dr. Erwin – Educate us on the process.
Interim Superintendent – Mr. Ramsey just spoke to it.
Dr. Erwin – But you’re kind of asking us to give out a blank check.
No. What I’m asking is for the board to approve, just like we do in any other contract and negotiation, we didn’t vote on a single contract tonight. What you all voted on was items that authorize us to go forward and engage or invest money in the purchase of different academic resources and teaching supplement. That’s every item tonight. I didn’t see a single contract.
Dr. Erwin – But, I saw very great detail in the presentation.
Interim Superintendent – Basically the same presentation. They all on the same template.
We all agree we want to support the Superintendent. I’m hearing Dr. Carter suggested that whatever direction you want to pursue in this regard, Mr. Superintendent, just put it in writing and within a week bring it back and we will have a called meeting. And then in one week, we will vote on it. If everybody thinks that’s a good idea, let me know by a show of hands.
[A majority of board members raise their hand]
OK, that’s what we will do.
I’d like to move that the board of education authorize the Superintendent to negotiate an agreement with McKenna Long & Aldridge governance center for the implementation phase of the governance best practices systems, controls, culture, reporting systems to address AdvancED’s required actions in an amount not to exceed $50 thousand per month through June 30, 2014.
Moved by Campbell and second by Dr. Morley. Is there any discussion?
Call for the vote.
[5 yes votes with Mayfield, Orson and Carter abstaining]