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Most expensive bidder wins technology sale to Fayette schools; teachers' evaluations rejected

Central office committee throws out teacher evaluations of classroom equipment as ‘unreliable’; difference between low and high bidder could be more than $500,000

The Fayette County School System last year threw out evaluations of classroom technology from dozens of teachers as “unreliable” and awarded the sale to the most expensive bidder out of three bids submitted.

The difference between the low and high bid could amount to as much as a half million dollars. Both low bidders have complained to the system, but so far to no avail, The Citizen has learned.

It was a move to enhance the classrooms in Fayette County schools. But the award for 21st Century Classroom technology in November to MultiMedia Services was followed by a formal protest of the bid award by bidder Summit Systems and a letter of concern by the third bid finalist RM Education.

In the midst of the process to determine the bid outcome, the input from teachers who would be using the classroom technology was eliminated from consideration by the school system’s 21st Century Classroom Committee because that input was deemed “not valid and unreliable.”

Of the three bid finalists, the per classroom bid by MultiMedia was highest at $2,657.25, followed by Summit Systems at $2,342 and RM Education at $2,109.23.

While representing a difference of $548.02, that number swells to as much as $548,000 when considering that up to 1,000 Fayette classrooms still require some or all of the technology adaptations, according to school officials.

MultiMedia got the bid award in November.

Once completely outfitted in three phases, the school system’s classroom technology equipment will be utilized by students and teachers across the system.

The nine-member 21st Century committee, two of which were non-voting members, determined which bid to recommend to the school board by considering four weighted categories. Those weighting factors were “Quality of Solution” at 35 percent, “Price” at 25 percent, “Business Capability” at 20 percent and “References” at 20 percent.

“Quality of Solution” for Phase 1 included projector installation and equipment and, in Phase 2, the performance and functionality of the equipment installed for the test installation, according to information provided by the school system.

As explained in the tabulation summary, “Quality of Solution” was given a total of 200 points, with 100 of those coming from the committee and 100 from the survey scores.

According to information provided by the school system, the committee responding to the Summit protest documentation said that “teachers found the rooms to be fairly equal, but the committee scored them differently.”

The committee said that after the classroom installations by the three vendors were complete, committee members were asked to go to each of the three classrooms to use and test the equipment. All three vendors were contacted to make varying degrees of corrections to installations prior to the final review.

“The Committee convened, discussed the quality of solution and determined the score by consensus. The committee reviewed the teacher evaluations and opted to remove survey data from the tabulation. The Committee believes that the data collected through the survey was not valid and reliable,” school system documents said.

Berry-Dreisbach in checking with school system staff to determine how many teachers used the three classrooms and took the survey said those numbers are not specifically known. There were 71 surveys for the three classrooms, indicating some teachers may not have completed surveys for all three rooms or that some might have visited the same classroom more than once.

As a result of the committees’ finding and the elimination of the teacher’s survey responses committee members re-evaluated the weighting formula and allowed a maximum of 100 points by the committee to be combined with the scores for quality of solution, pricing, business capability and references.

The final score assigned by the committee gave MultiMedia a score of 85, followed by RM Education with a score of 73 and Summit Systems with a score of 61.

On the weighted quality of solution section, MultiMedia scored 35, followed by RM at 18 and Summit at 9. On pricing, Summit scored 23, RM scored 25 and MultiMedia scored 20. All three companies scored identically on the references and business capability sections.

Members of the committee that made the bid award decision were as follows: Purchasing Agent and committee chair Terri Gerhardt, Technology Services Director Curt Cearley, Instructional Technology Specialist Robyn Miller, Facilities Services Director Mike Satterfield, Bennett’s Mill Middle School Principal Rae Presley-King, Whitewater Middle School Media Specialist Patricia Hipps, Peeples Elementary Tech Specialist ReuAnn Annis, Tyrone Elementary Tech Specialist Kate Matthews and Kedron Elementary Principal Karen Bullock.

Asked to elaborate on the finding that the teacher survey data was “not valid and reliable,” the school system said, “The scoring was inconsistent throughout. The inconsistencies could not be attributed to specific questions or sections of the survey.”

Asked for further clarification, The Citizen was told that, “The initial purpose of the survey was to provide feedback to the Committee. The Committee decided to include the survey as part of the score. After further consideration the Committee determined that the surveys were not valid and reliable because the survey data was not collected under controlled conditions. The Committee determined:

“• Survey data was not scientifically tracked. There was no way to measure who completed the survey, experience level with the equipment or number of respondents who tested all three installations.

“• Survey questions may have been difficult for respondents to complete without specific knowledge of the equipment.

“• Survey responses were on a scale of 0 to 4 points with four being the highest.

“Respondents could not respond with ‘could not test’ or ‘did not test.’

“All of these factors created inconsistent data throughout. The surveys were reviewed by the Committee as a part of the process, but were not used as an independent score for the reasons stated above.”

Summit Systems initiated a bid protest in late 2009, with Senior Vice President Tim Gorisek noting that, “During our discovery this afternoon, my team has noted several minimum product specification discrepancies in the proposal from MultiMedia Services and also in Fayette County’s documentation and scoring used to judge the final vendors offerings and solutions to determine and justify the award.”

Summit in its bid protest letter asked for a meeting with Superintendent John DeCotis and other relevant school system staff.

Asked if that meeting had occurred, Berry-Dreisbach checked with school system officials and advised that the meeting was held on Jan. 6.

Representatives from Summit Systems, Inc. met with Curt Cearley, director of technology services, Cory Kirby, school system attorney and purchasing agent Terri Gerhardt, according to Berry-Dreisbach.

RM Education did not file a bid protest but did request two meetings to discuss their concerns. Gerhardt on Feb. 3 received an email from RM Education Vice President for Strategic Sales David Allen said, “I wanted to follow-up with you concerning the deployment timeframe Fayette has set for implementing the 21st Century Classroom. As you know at this point we have not had an opportunity to meet with the Superintendent and the Board Chair to express our position on the RFP not being awarded to lowest priced vendor, RM Education.”

“I do understand this award is under review and believe other vendor’s have been granted meetings concerning the award,” Allen continued. “My CEO, Mr. Kevin Pawsey, has asked that I follow up through proper channels to ensure we have the same opportunity to represent our (company’s) position on this issue. It is not our intention to create any dissension within the district or the community but to have an opportunity to discuss our position that we believe we should have received the reward.”

Berry-Dreisbach said an initial meeting with RM Education was held on Dec. 1 when company representatives met with Gerhardt and Deputy Superintendent Fred Oliver.

In Feb. 22 letters to both RM and Summit, Gerhardt said the committee reconvened to review their companies concerns and found that the evaluation process followed the criteria set forth in the Request for Proposal document.

The second meeting that followed the February email was held March 10 with DeCotis, comptroller Laura Brock, technology services director Curt Cearley, Terri Gerhardt and instructional technology specialist Robyn Miller.

As it stands, the protest by Summit and the concerns by RM Education were noted and the award to the most expensive bidder, MultiMedia, stands.



Wow, I'm shocked. The school system ignores teacher input. Teachers are not the only ones weary of the school system's fiscal nonsense. Many parents of this county, here because they, at one time, valued Fayette County Schools as one of the best in the state, are moving their children out of the public schools...their primary purpose always being superior educations for their children and not loyalty to a once-great school system. Devaluing teachers is one thing...they're employees; devaluing services to children (as in when you spend MORE MONEY THAN YOU HAVE TO!) will cost this county's public schools more than can be measured in dollars and cents.

suggarfoot's picture

I'm shocked too! Either they feel your opions aren't worth a flip, or they designed the questionare wrong. Either way, it doesn't say much for whom ever was on the committe.

I don't know who's imput could be of more value.

The 5-0's picture

The sad thing is, show me any profession where the administration listens to their employees.

G35 Dude's picture

[quote=The 5-0]The sad thing is, show me any profession where the administration listens to their employees.[/quote]

Amen to that.

Has anyone heard of staff input on purchasing equipment needing to be scientifically tracked? This is not a research project. The idea is to get general impressions of the people who will actually be using the products so that good buying decisions can be made. Perhaps someone needs to check out MultiMedia Services more closely. Who works there and how are they tied into local politics? Why did the lower bidders end up meeting with different people and how is this consistent? Does spending $500,000 more to accept the highest bid sound rational? This extra expense would have paid for the recently contested teacher supplements and extracurricular transportation costs. This is sounding like another example of poor resource management. Good job, Citizen. Keep up the good work.

Just Asking

WakeUp's picture

I called him Dr Decostusalot once before. Any questions now? $500,000 could have been used for something else. For that matter, how will the $2,500,000 help with keeping out of county students OUT? How will it help with retaining teachers? How will it help with keeping my taxes low and the school system's budget reasonable?

I witnessed a black Expedition with Coweta tags dropping off young kids at a bus stop on MacDuff Pkwy this week. Does anyone know where I should report the tag number?????

Report it to the police and to the BoE. Maybe it's innocent - the kids spent the night with family while Mom and Dad are out of town. But if not, it'll be found out.

The 5-0's picture

Do NOT call the police report those tag numbers.

We can't run them, we can't take the report and all you're going to do is tie up our units and the 911 center with that rubbish!

Call the BoE, not L.E.

The part about if the teachers don't agree with administration, they don't count makes me wonder about a payoff.

Check into relationships, friendships, background,etc. I've bid technology equipment to State and County before and have found that price seldom matters. It's relationships, "good old boy" associations, and sometimes, downright pay-offs.

When three bids are received, technology and reputation matters but if that's close to equal, price wins out everytime.

This sounds fishy to me.

Follow the money !!

Somebody's been paid off. This is like the good old days when the BoE decides what's best based on what's in it for their checking accounts. Especially since they're throwing out any dissenting opinions. I suggest someone do a thorough check of the bank accounts of everyone on the BoE and all their family members.
And how many more furlow days will county employees have to take to make up for the extra $500,000.00?

The Wedge's picture

Man, I should have submitted a bid! I have been managing projects and requests for quotations for years, and I must have been doing it all wrong!

[quote=CherylS]Somebody's been paid off. This is like the good old days when the BoE decides what's best based on what's in it for their checking accounts. Especially since they're throwing out any dissenting opinions. I suggest someone do a thorough check of the bank accounts of everyone on the BoE and all their family members.
And how many more furlow days will county employees have to take to make up for the extra $500,000.00?[/quote]

I wrote a detailed analysis of how <strong>in this one instance</strong>, the Board of Education did the right thing by selecting the high bidder. Unfortunately, the "service unavailable" bug that Cal Beverly claims does not exist ate my reply.

Long story short: go to the websites of each of the vendors listed in the article. The low bidder was an outfit that sold videoconferencing equipment to corporations. They had a VERY weak product offering.

The middle provider offered a catalog of parts.

The high bidder offered a solution, not a list of hardware.

The Wedge's picture

There are more than three companies offering this array of products. I have not done this legwork, but if it as you stated, then their request for bid process was fixed from the start. I would say that the BOE did not get it right if there was that kind of corruption involved.

[quote=The Wedge]There are more than three companies offering this array of products. I have not done this legwork, but if it as you stated, then their request for bid process was fixed from the start. I would say that the BOE did not get it right if there was that kind of corruption involved.[/quote]

I've spent many years on both sides of the RFP process. The sad truth is, you cannot force companies to bid for your projects. Education technology solutions seem to be a growing market, but at the present time they are pretty much a niche area.

If *I* were a company considering bidding on a FCBOE project, I'd think long and hard as to whether I wanted the FCBOE's business, particularly in light of Board Member Lee Wright's documented history of attempting to unilaterally change contract terms after contracts have been signed.

The RFP itself appears to have been fatally flawed, and I am of the opinion that technology chief Curt Cealey should be held responsible. The questionnaire that teachers were supposed to have used to evaluate the proposed solutions appears to have been a last-minute amateurish production. Simply put, there was too much subjective evaluation and not enough objective evaluation. That, I suspect, is why teacher evaluations were all over the place. I believe that the committee did the right thing in discarding the teachers evaluation results. Again, this is NOT a slam against the teachers, it's a screwup from whoever in Cealey's dept came up with such a flawed evaluation document.

The board was presented with a "Cadillac" solution, a "Chevrolet" solution and a "Yugo" solution. Since money is no object for hardware purchases (due to passage of the SPLOST), the board chose to go with the "Cadillac" solution.

The winning bidder did far... the best product available in my opinion. I'd much rather see my tax dollars funding worthy (if expensive) initiatives like this, as opposed to the pockets of developer friends of Smola and Smith.

You have no idea about what you are talking about. This WAS NOT a "Cadillac" solution, a "Chevrolet" solution and a "Yugo" solution. Each of the three providers provided IDENTICAL manufacturer equipment with the exception of the projector, speaker, and tuner manufacturers, all of which met the bid specifications and if you look at the manufacturers spec sheets, they have almost identical characteristics. Oh yea, all except for one: the Infocus projector from MultiMedia is manufactured by a company that has been on the heels of bankruptcy and you would also know that MultiMedia's ceiling speakers and amplifier did not meet the minimum specifications, but indicated in writing that they did meet spec..

So the mounting hardware from Chief was identical, the Pixie wall controllers were identical, the Draper screen was identical, and the plenum box in the ceiling was installed by the school.

Don't forget, the school put out minimum specs of which all three met WITH THE EXCEPTION of MultiMedia, and MultiMedia did not exceed the specs or in any way provide a superior solution in any other way that would justify the price difference, which in MultiMedias case was on the Tuner and most of all in LABOR!!

Also, as the technology committee admits, they had all three companies install these rooms and approved the quality of all three.

To further this, if you had as many facts that you are attempting to quote, you would have the board meeting minutes and would have read them.. Not only was the board not presented with a "Cadillac" solution, a "Chevrolet" solution and a "Yugo" solution, they were presented with only one solution and recommendation. MultiMedia.

Oh yea, one more thing, if you know the facts, you might know that after round one of the scoring, the following companies were ranked as follows:

NetPlanner (75)
Summit Systems (71)
Dell (71)

MultiMedia (70)
RM/Computrac (68)
LogicalChoice (62)

How is it that MultiMedia made it to round 2 when the 3 highest scored companies in round 1 was NetPlanner, Summit Systems, and Dell?

Dude, have it together before you attempt to quote fact. That is unless you have an agenda here.

The difference between us is that I was looking at each website to get an idea as to which company provided a better overall solution to educate our school children.

You, on the other hand, seem to want to drool over a list of hardware parts.

I stand by my opinion.

I am not drolling over a list of parts at all, just rebutting your statement with FACTS that you stated MultiMedia provided a superior solution which is completely false, and thus demonstrating the FACT that you are also making uninformed statements.

Also, you keep stating that you reviewed the websites to get an idea to which company provided a better overall solution.

In your previous post, you falsely stated that Computrac sells video conferencing to Commercial which is completely inaccurate and Summit only sells via a list of catalog parts which is inaccurate.

All three companies have a an accomplished history of providing comprehensive solutions to K-12 and this is referenced on each providers site. Each company represented their capabilities to the degree that Fayette found each company's service, references, history, and corporate capabilities to be the same (you would know that if you read the county's bid and research documentation they conducted on the three companies)

To make a suggestion that the school board made the right decision to spend 500k more in this or any economic climate because of a companies website is not only ignorant and shallow minded, it is a representation of the dishonest, reckless, and irresponsible behavior that was displayed in the decision making that resulted in this award.

I stand by the facts. Not opinion.

Jsandford, you seem personally offended that someone has an opinion that differs from yours. (Are you a "Tea Party" member, by chance?)

I continue to stand by my opinion. I have a history of taking the Terrible Three to task for their poor business decisions, and have said so to their faces at Board Meetings. On this issue, however, I am of the opinion that the two also-rans in the RFP process have failed to make a compelling business case for their solutions.

I also explained my opinion regarding the poorly designed teacher product evaluation form. As I stated earlier, I hold the technology division of the FCBOE (Curtis Cealey) responsible for the poorly designed teacher evaluation.

Feel free to ascribe sinister motives to the board on this issue. If and when more facts become available, I may revisit my opinion. If you feel that nattering about plenum boxes makes your opinion somehow more "valid" than mine, well, we'll just agree to disagree.

In the future, I'd caution you not to put words in my mouth again. Try supporting your own opinion instead of indulging in "straw man" fallacies.

The Wedge's picture

[quote=Chris P. Bacon]In the future, I'd caution you not to put words in my mouth again. Try supporting your own opinion instead of indulging in "straw man" fallacies.[/quote]
I have walked down this entire thread and I do not see the words that were inaccurately placed. You are on record saying that FCBOE made a good call and expensive is the best solution in this matter. I find it interesting. It seems that jsandford has inside knowledge and has seen the entire bid packages. You seem to have only seen the websites of the respective companies. I may be wrong on both accounts. However, if sandford has seen the bid packages and the vetting of the packages saw the winning bid as actually the 4th best, then there is something very fishy here. I know that you are no fan of the current BOE so I am confused as to whom is correct. What knowledge of the bids do you actually have?

I have access to all of the documents including the three company responses, notes, and all scoring sheets.

The documents are of public record and are open for everyone’s access and review upon request. In the future CB, "I'd caution you" to exercise your rights to this information and spend a little time researching before you form or present an uneducated opinion.

As a response to another CB question, on one end I am not a tea party member and on the other I am certainly not a bleeding heart liberal. But you are right about one thing, I do happen to be, like every tax paying entity in Fayette, personally offended at this level of corrupt, misuse of our tax resources.

To correct CB on another point (again), CB stated that Curtis Cealey who is the Technology Director should be held responsible when rightfully (and legally) Terri Gerhardt who is the Director of Purchasing is the one here where the responsibility rests. While Curtis was on the committee as he should have been, his input was very limited to the degree of an individual opinion. Terri was in charge of the entire RFP process from conception, to the score sheets, scoring methodology, vendor communication and coordination of the test room installs performed by MultiMedia, Summit, and RM. She was in charge of and delivered the final recommendation to the board which was done in such a fashion that only MultiMedia was recommended with no mention of the other two solution providers, their closely match capabilities, their closely matched test rooms, and certainly not their cost savings.

I'm sure the board would have appreciated to have the facts presented that showed all three with equal history in K12, equal business capabilities, and almost identical test installations. Maybe if that happened though, perhaps the board would have actually asked the question: “Why the price difference?”

BTW, at this board meeting, Terri slipped in some extra hardware above and beyond the extra 500k for interactive boards being awarded to MultiMedia to the tune of about another $1000 per classroom that has NEVER been out to bid. That’s right, another $ 1,000,000 in hardware business to MultiMedia on top of this with NO RFP or competitive bids.

John Munford's picture

When you get the first page telling you it doesn't exist, go to the top and replace the www. with archive.

Then hit return/enter.

in other words the corrected URL will start like this:

Staff Writer

Here you really have no idea about what you are talking about at all. You state to go to the websites of each vendor here and review there offerings. You are waaaaaay off here.

1. You state that the low bidder, Computrac/RM ( "was an outfit that sold videoconferencing equipment to corporations. They had a VERY weak product offering."

Computrac/RM does not even offer video conferencing and has NO presence in the corporate market AT ALL. If you review the website you reference and more specific, the proposals, you will see that they not only have a very comprehensive solution and service offering focused on K-12 but had the best warranty of the three bidders and is a company with many more placements of 21st century classroom installations that MultiMedia.

2. You stated "The middle provider, Summit Systems ( offered a catalog of parts."

Not only does Summit Systems offer an electronic catalog of AV products, but if you read what makes up 90% of their website, their entire business model is based around design, project management, service, and maintenance for IT and AV and has an impeccable track record in the K-12 space for integrated AV solutions. If you review the proposals, they submitted their proposals in the same required format as Comptrac and MultiMedia.

3. You stated: "The high bidder MultiMedia" offered a solution, not a list of hardware.

The fact of the matter is that the school specified exactly what the solution and the design was to consist of and the specifications of the hardware to be installed AND the written format in which each provider was to submit the proposals. The solution was already defined going in. Try reading the RFP.

This was not a situation where each provider offered up the best design or chose the format to submit the proposal in. The design and ALL hardware was strictly specified in the RFP which is why each room was closely identical with NO operational differences.

They ALL had a very close spec'd projector, SAME PART NUMBER Draper Screen, SAME PART NUMBER Pixie wall controller, SAME PART NUMBER chief mount, a tuner in the ceiling, ceiling speakers, and plenum box installed by the school. Not much room for 500k difference.

The bid was fixed. Follow the money and you will find out why.

Try again idiot.

This is real simple to understand and it's clear what happened here. The scoring was intentionally stacked so that the technology committee's weighted score outranked all other facets of scoring. When the teachers scores reported to the contrary their scores were removed. They used their leverage to award this project to the highest bidder because of school system member ties to the awarded company.

We have a super retiring this year and we can fix the rest of this going forward by removing every board member that holds a seat with our votes; if they do not agree to halt this project, reverse this decision, and remove the purchasing manager from her job.

Through our vote, we need to take responsibility and control of our tax dollars and our schools here in Fayette.

Ultimately, we are responsible for letting this happen or leaving those in place that caused this. It's up to us.

suggarfoot's picture

Marian Key and Dr Todd have been outvoted on everything. Then, Smola and Smith want to get Dr Todd in front of the ethics committee for not 'parroting' their vote.

Then people show up at BOE meeting saying 'they represent all Realtors in Fayette county' the assumption would be they had a vote and decided to have these people come tell the BOE that they should speak as one voice (they didn't)

Then there is the oddity of a teacher of Fayette county getting up speaking, stating that Dr Todd has violated the ethics code by not going along with the program.

The odd thing about the teacher checking ..ALL..TEACHERS for the entire state of Georgia, we have only 2 Joy Clarks working as teachers, both over a hundred miles from Fayette county. Next, this person gives their address as Tyrone, Ga.

How strange to NOT give your full name, or correct name, when talking down to Dr Todd about how (she feels), he violated said ethics?

There is however, a person living in this county, who had a relative involved in TCG Holdings, that is the development company that BOE Smith's husband was also a owner in. Nah, couldn't be, surely not.

Couple of interesting updates on facts:

1. The highest priced solution purchased here through MultiMedia has ALL of the installed InFocus projectors failing and are being replaced one by one....only to fail again.

2. The sales rep that sold this deal from MultiMedia moved on to another company...Edco Education Consultants (now owned by the David Allen referenced in this article)...of which he recently won a similar bid at Cobb County Schools without meeting minimum a higher price ($200+ per room) than the lowest qualified bidder.

A pattern??

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