AL legislator delays MPS intervention-related contract

AL legislator delays MPS intervention-related contract
Jason Taylor (Source: Huntsville City Schools)
Jason Taylor (Source: Huntsville City Schools)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A pending contract related to the Alabama State Department of Education's intervention into the Montgomery Public School System has been delayed after Rep. John Knight, D - Montgomery, said he needs answers to several questions, namely a discrepancy in the contract cost and who the money is going to.

The three-year contract is with Northbay Strategic Partners, LLC.

Knight said as he read the contract, it was for "$200,000 plus" but when he saw the agenda " it was for $700,000". The contract is actually valued at exactly $762,000.

Knight also said he was concerned with who exactly the money is going to be paid to.

A check with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill's office shows filings were made to form the Birmingham-based company less than two months ago on Jan. 26, two weeks to the day after the ALSDE sent notice to MPS of intervention. It was organized in the name of Jason Taylor, the CFO for the Huntsville City Schools.

The ALSDE's Director of Communications, Michael Sibley, Ed.D., sought to clarify some concerns in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. It states:

“As the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) makes plans to fundamentally improve student achievement throughout the state, contractual agreements are necessary to identify necessary scopes of work and engage adequate resources. The contract review process properly vets pending contracts and provides basic legislative oversight. In establishing a Chief Financial/Operations Officer for the Montgomery Public School (MPS) Intervention effort, the ALSDE is attempting to contract with Mr. Jason Taylor, CFO of Huntsville City Schools, to oversee the business and support operations during the intervention. The contract covers a broad scope of services and objectives at a per annum amount of $236,000 ($708,000 as a three year total).  The costs of these services is commensurate with market value expectations for someone with Mr. Taylor’s professional experience and capabilities. MPS is in need of strong fiscal management. We believe Mr. Taylor can provide the oversight necessary to help MPS meet its full potential.”   

Another possible issue with the contract comes from Sibley's statement that "The cost...is commensurate with market value expectations..." At $236,000 per year, Taylor would be making 60 percent more than MPS's previous CFO, who made $102,000 annually.

The Contract Review Permanent Legislative Oversight Committee was looking over the contract Thursday morning. The contract is set to last from April 15, 2017, to April 14, 2020, fitting into the 3-5 year range Sentance has previously provided for the length of the intervention.

Knight said, "We're going to talk with them, and then if they can explain them, then we will release the contract. That's all that it is."

This particular contract will not have any delaying effect on the actual intervention of the Montgomery school system.

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