South Orange-Maplewood Board of Ed to Vote on Hiring Equity Consultant

by The Village Green
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Updated Jan. 30, 8:53 a.m. The proposed consultant fee will be paid over a three-year period through December 2017.

The South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education will vote on a resolution to hire an educational equity consultant to help the district address the underrepresentation of African-American students in high level classes identified in a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The vote will take place at the Board of Education’s Monday, February 2 meeting — a rescheduled date for the planned Jan. 26 meeting that was postponed due to the forecasted blizzard.

The Board of Education will vote on whether to hire Sage Educational Consultants, LLC. The cost will be $78,500, which will be paid over a three-year period through December 2017.

Board of Education member Jeff Bennett questioned the cost in an email to The Village Green. Bennett wrote, “I am glad that we are hiring consultants who have K-12 teaching experience and who made the lowest bid, but we have another substantial budget shortfall and need to figure out where to get the money to hire more teachers to accommodate student population growth.  We all want our AP classes to be more balanced racially, but since the consultants are doing things we have already done or are doing, I am dismayed about being forced to make this large non-classroom expenditure.”

In October, OCR and the district entered into an agreement regarding the complaint which alleged that the district does not provide equal access for black students to participate in advanced and higher-level learning opportunities. (A second similar complaint, filed in October, has yet to reach resolution.)

As part of the agreement, the district promised to hire a consultant to help determine whether SOMSD should consider revising or expanding eligibility and selection criteria for higher level classes, improve its outreach to parents and students, and consider whether it should make changes to its staff and administrative training. (Read more about the agreement here.)

The consultant was selected by a working committee made up of Board of Education members. However, the Board reported at its Nov. 24, 2014 meeting that a broader-based task force, which could include teachers and community members as well as board members and administrative staff, will be formed to guide the work of the consultant once hired.

The district’s Educational Equity Consultant RFP Evaluation Report reads as follows:

Educational Equity Consultant pursuant to a Resolution Agreement, Case No. 02-13-5003, entered into with the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. The resolution agreement commits the Board of Education to retain and work with a consultant with expertise in addressing the underrepresentation of African American students in college and career preparatory programs and courses to analyze District data and practices, at all grade levels, and to make recommendations, as appropriate, for improving the Board’s efforts to provide all students with equal access to and an equal opportunity to participate in such programs and courses. The Educational Equity Consultant will also be called upon to assist the District in eliminating or significantly reducing the adverse impact of the District’s discipline policies and practices, with an emphasis on reducing the use of out-of-school suspensions.

A panel of eight (8) members, consisting of four (4) Board of Education members and four (4) District administrators, served on the Evaluation Committee:

Evaluation of Proposals: On January 22, 2015, the Evaluation Committee interviewed each of the three (3) Consultants that submitted proposals as above. Questions were asked and responses were graded in each of the sections (A through D) of the Evaluation Criteria. Score sheets were completed by each committee member and were tabulated by the Business Administrator. As per the RFP Specification, after points were awarded by the evaluators, a weighting factor was applied, and thus a total score derived. While each of the proposers shared insight into the agreement with the Office of Civil Rights, the committee felt that the proposal by Sage Educational Consultants, LLC best met the needs of the District.

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