Mathews to renegotiate contract again

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System is renegotiating a contract with an educational strategist to save federal funding next school year.

Earlier this month, NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews asked the Newton County Board of Education to approve a contract for $95,800 with Educators for Academic Excellence Consulting LLC for 24 days of professional learning time with Dr. Dan Mulligan for NCSS staff during the 2011-12 school year.

Although the funding is paid for through federal Title I and federal Title IIA accounts that are earmarked for professional development, some school board members had asked for some of the extra fees to be renegotiated to save funding. According to the original contract, Mulligan would be paid $3,200 in training fees per day, or $76,800 total, plus $19,000 in travel and other expenses. Expenses included $7,000 for airfare, $3,600 for hotel, $7,200 for car rental and $1,200 for meals.

Mathews brought a new contract to the school board during its monthly meeting last week, but some of the members hoped that some fees could still be reduced. The new contract calls for $7,000 for airfare, $2,760 for hotel, $3,600 for car rental and gas and $1,200 for meals.

"I believe in the integrity of the training, but I'm concerned about the expenses," said board member Jeff Meadors.

He said he noticed that the car rental fee is now cut in half, which makes him speculate what else is inflated as part of his fees.

"With all of these unknowns, it's hard to defend," he said.

The board decided to approve the training fees and meals and ask Mulligan if NCSS could provide his airfare, car rental and hotel in hopes of saving money. Mathews is expected to consult with Mulligan's business department and report back to the board.

He also is expected to confirm that NCSS won't foot the entire bill for a plane trip to Georgia if Mulligan is conducting work in another Georgia county at the same time, as Mulligan often provides consulting work to Gwinnett County Public Schools and other systems.

While in Newton, Mathews said that Mulligan will conduct site visits at schools in the Needs Improvement status, which could be as many as 19 schools next year. On the visits, he will observe classrooms, debrief teachers with findings and strengths and provide instructional areas for improvement.

"We pay him to tell us the truth," Mathews said. "We need a third party who is neutral to tell us the way he sees us and give us concrete steps to improve the classroom."

Mulligan also will provide a summer institute to new teachers and teachers who did not go through training this school year. He will explain to teachers how instructional strategies are used and model them during work sessions. Mulligan also could provide other training seminars to teachers throughout the school year, Mathews said.

Already NCSS used Mulligan more than a dozen times this school year for $44,480 paid for through federal Title I and federal Title IIA funds. He said teacher evaluations from this year's trainings have received good comments and satisfactory ratings.

Mathews said NCSS is expected to receive at least $600,000 in federal professional development funds next school year. He doesn't expect to use all of the funds, which can be carried over to the next school year.