Advice Price Tag $77,000
By James Haug
By JAMES HAUG
Help for schools tagged as “needing improvement” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act segued to a no-consultant-left- behind discussion Thursday when Clark County School Board members approved payment of $2,200 per day to each of two out-of-state contractors.
One consultant, Roberta Hennigan, will be paid $44,000 for 20 days of work. The second consultant, Jeri Balick, will earn $33,000 for 15 days of work. The consultants will help failing schools audit existing programs and practices and provide strategies for meeting federal education benchmarks.
The consultant contracts proved to be controversial because payment will be made from the Clark County School District’s general fund, which has been reduced by $93.7 million this year because of shortfalls in state revenue. Often, the district has used federal funds to pay consultant fees, but is not doing so in this instance.
School Board members also were frustrated that district staff could not provide information on a general pay range or the going- market rate for hiring consultants. They were uncertain about whether they were getting a good value.
The daily pay rate approved in a 4-1 board vote includes expenses for travel, food and lodging expenses since one consultant is coming from California and the other from the Midwest, said Associate Superintendent Karlene McCormick-Lee.
McCormick-Lee also assured the School Board that she had negotiated the consultants down on their original asking price of $3,500 a day.
Superintendent Walt Rulffes said consultants are subject to the same travel rules applied to district employees. When flying, for example, district employees can only travel coach, not first class or business class.
School Board Member Carolyn Edwards appreciated that the contracts were bargained down but was not satisfied because “$3,500 seems outrageous to me, but $2,200 seems steep as well.”
Edwards opposed the contracts. Board members Mary Beth Scow, Terri Janison, Ruth Johnson and Sheila Moulton voted to approve after stipulating they want more information.
District officials also said the contracts were reasonable when compared to hiring full-time staff and paying for benefits. McCormick-Lee said administrators could do the consultants’ jobs if they weren’t so busy with other responsibilities.
Balick will assist Adams and Herron elementary schools and Gibson and Keller middle schools. Hennigan will “provide intensive school support” to Dearing, Hollingsworth and Carson elementary schools; Knudson Middle School; and Del Sol High School.
The schools’ staffs will also be trained on how do reviews.
The consultants’ assignments are not easy to quantify, and it’s difficult to determine a fair market value for their services, officials said. Nor is the expertise easy to find.
“Believe me, if it was in a book, I would have bought it,” McCormick-Lee said.
In other business, the board also agreed to spend up to $900,000 for independent contracts for physical and occupational therapists, because the district has had difficulty in recruiting. The money the district will spend on the contractors would have been used for hiring new employees.
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702- 799-2922.
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