MONTGOMERY — Lawmakers have questions about a second large proposed contract between the Alabama State Department of Education and an outside vendor working on the intervention of Montgomery Public Schools.

The $762,000 contract with Northbay Strategic Partners in Birmingham was delayed today by the Legislative Contract Review Committee for questions.

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked the contract be delayed.

“The department of education brought the contract to me prior to the meeting and as I read the contract, it was for $200,000-plus,” Knight said today. “When I saw the (contract review agenda), it was for $700,000.”

Knight said he had to attend a Read Across America event that conflicted with the contract review meeting, so he asked for the delay.

“I had it held up until I have a full understanding of what the contract is for, who’s being paid out of the contract and what the deliverables are, that sort of thing,” Knight said.

Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, said he was concerned the company, established in late January according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s website, was “virtually created” for this contract.

According to a copy of the contract submitted to the committee, it was not competitively bid. Under state code, contracts with consultants do not have to be advertised. Jason W. Taylor, the chief financial officer at Huntsville City Schools, is the managing partner at Northbay.

The contract says Taylor would be paid $708,000, not $762,000 as listed on the committee’s agenda, over three years, including a $15,000 a year travel stipend and $5,000 a year accommodation stipend. The contract is state-funded.

ALSDE issued a statement this afternoon about the contract, saying the department plans to fundamentally improve student achievement throughout the state and contractual agreements are needed to identify necessary scopes of work and engage adequate resources.

“The costs of these services (by Taylor) is commensurate with market value expectations for someone with Mr. Taylor’s professional experience and capabilities,” ALSDE spokesman Michael Sibley said. “MPS is in need of strong fiscal management. We believe Mr. Taylor can provide the oversight necessary to help MPS meet its full potential.”  

The contract is for, but not limited to “oversight of the ALSDE intervention in the Montgomery County Public Schools with specific concentration on review, analysis, and change implementation relevant to general administration, finance and business administration, operations and maintenance, information technology, child nutrition programs, other auxiliary within MPS.”

A Huntsville City Schools spokesman said he this afternoon he didn’t have information about whether Taylor would resign from the system.

The same committee last month delayed a $536,000 contract with a Massachusetts company to do reviews of Montgomery schools and others statewide. This newspaper has reported that State Superintendent Michael Sentance was previously associated with Class Measures Inc. and exchanged emails with the vice president there about a request for proposal prior to it being made public.

That contract has not yet been released by the committee, which can hold them for up to 45 days.

Knight said he also has questions about the Class Measures contract.

“We’re going to talk to them and if they can explain the contracts, we’ll release them,” he said. “That’s all it is.”

Meanwhile, some state board of education members have expressed frustration about a lack of communication from Sentance about contracts and work on the intervention.

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mary.sell@decaturdaily.com. Twitter @DD_MarySell.

(2) comments

Mary Coe

I find the half million being funneld to state superintendent Sentance's former employer very interesting. He has been here less than a year and already sending Alabama taxpayer money to Massachusetts. Bentley is trying to give Sentance a $1.5 million "discretionary" fund in the new budget. I wonder how much of that will end up in his former employer's hands.

J. T.

Wow, who do I need to 'lobby' to get my newly created firm some sweet sweet low-to-no bid state contracts?? Sounds awesome! /s

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