Award Contracts, but Read Them First

I am happy to report, rather belatedly, that the Timberlane School Board voted to award a one-year contract for athletic trainer services to Access Sports Medicine.  This laudable decision was taken at the school board meeting on April 18th.  Access was the lower bidder and seems  to meet and often exceed our requirements.  I am encouraged by this decision because it strikes me as a good indication that the current administration is prepared to embrace necessary change and break with the old way of doing things. ( The previous athletic trainer services company had worked with the district for 28 years with no known last competitive bid.)  Dr. Metzler and district legal advisers were left to work out the details as the final contract was not yet in place, though the broad terms of the contract were presented during the bid process.

I mention the absence of a contract at the meeting for a reason.  Immediately before the athletic trainer services discussion, the board spent some time trying to understand why food services was in the red by $105,838 as of the end of March 2013.  The projected total loss for the school year is believed to be something close to $150,000.  Dr. Metzler stated frankly that the contract Timberlane signed with the food service contractor was not in the district’s interest.  Administrative fees and generous opt out clauses in the contract saddled the district with large fees.

You might naturally think this would have set the school board on alert for paying more attention to future contracts, but if you thought so, you haven’t watched enough school board meetings.  Although the board must vote to undertake a contract, if the athletic trainer service contract is characteristic, they feel no need to trouble themselves to actually read it.  Dr. Metzler promised that he would pay very close attention to all  contracts on his watch, which he must do to avoid falling into the contractual traps of his predecessor.

I’d like to hear similar conscientiousness from the board on this issue.  Who signed the previous food services contract and who reviewed it? Was the board made aware of the now problematic terms before the contract was signed?  Some curiosity about this is in order if we hope to prevent future surprises.  The school board should be using their own intelligence to assist Dr. Metzler in reviewing all contracts, but once again the board is putting on the Superintendent a good part of their own responsibilities.

TRSB April 18, 2013 meeting:    http://vimeo.com/64397824

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