Tecumseh School Board selects NEOLA to work with policies

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Members of the Tecumseh School Board voted 6-1 at the Monday, April 28, meeting to contract with NEOLA, Inc. based in Stow, Ohio, to provide service regarding board policy development, administrative guideline development, and electronic publishing services at a total cost of approximately $25,000.

Earlier in the school year, the board began a discussion regarding potential reviews of board policies and administrative regulations, then decided to solicit requests for proposals for the work. NEOLA and one other company, the law firm of Kotz Sangster Wysocki P.C. submitted bids. The law firm’s bid was a flat fee of $12,500 with additional work to be billed at $210 per hour.

Prior to awarding the work to NEOLA, the board discussed the alternatives.

“When the board asked for my recommendation, one thing I recommended was that we have to do something,” said Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS) Supt. Kelly Coffin. “NEOLA is in the policy business and working with education, so I view this as an annual audit like we would do for finances. They would provide us support.”

Several board members said they wished that the law firm had more experience, but their references showed that they had only worked with two school districts — one local and one intermediate school district.

“While it’s a little more money with NEOLA, it is a company that works with most of the schools in Michigan and some in northern Ohio,” Coffin said.

Board treasurer Stanley Ames, who voted no on the measure, renewed his objectives of spending $18,000 for development of the board policies and administrative regulations, then having to spend money for updates and electronic services.

“The other company offered 50 percent less,” he said. “I don’t view it on the level that it justifies spending $25,000 for it.”

Board member Jim Rice said while he’s usually one to go with the low bid and understands Ames’ position, he would go with NEOLA. “To me in this particular case, we’re talking about expertise and experience and that makes them worth a little more money,” Rice said.

Another board member, Greg Johnson, said he was more on the side of not doing anything, but given the choice of the two, he would go with NEOLA, choosing to use the services of someone whose business it is to develop policies.

“I don’t know that doing nothing is a good option, and I wish the lawyer had more references and background, but that leads me to NEOLA because it’s what they specialize in,” said board member Kimberly Amstutz-Wild.

“Besides hiring a superintendent, policy is our most important job,” said Board President Ed Tritt. “I’m hoping with the policies in place, there wouldn’t be a need for reactivity, but we could be more proactive.”

Debbie Johnson-Berges, who chairs the Finance Committee that reviewed the proposals, said she believed NEOLA was the best choice not only because they were experienced, but the policies, rules and regulations have been vetted and known to be user friendly.

Following the discussion, Johnson-Berges made the motion to award the work to NEOLA, which was seconded by Rice. Board member Roger Hart also voted in favor of the measure.

There was also discussion regarding the 2015 LISD Budget, which will be on the agenda for approval at a future date. Board members Stanley Ames and Kim Amstutz-Wild attended a budget meeting hosted by the LISD recently.

Until a couple of years ago, the TPS board had voted against the LISD budget, however, Ames said there is better understanding now of how the LISD has created a reserve fund for special education.

“Despite the fact that I don’t really like the way they do their accounting, the idea to create a fund is a wise one and has served the county well,” said Ames, recommending that the board vote positively when it comes up for approval. “This district has benefited tremendously.”

Coffin said Lenawee County is one of the few that has an ISD that actually provides additional reimbursement to local districts for special education costs, and the 2015 budget shows that local districts will receive reimbursement of an estimated $6.7 million next year.

In other business the school board members:

• Adopted a resolution to accept a settlement agreement with former athletic director, Casey Randolph. Coffin confirmed that the matter involved payment for days that were paid in advance for a contract year at the time Randolph left the district for another position. She said details of the settlement could not be disclosed. “This settles it and everybody moves on,” Coffin said.

• Recognized Tecumseh Acres Spelling Champion Laura Braun, who not only excelled in her class, school, and district, but at the county level, besting third graders in a countywide spelling bee. Braun said, “I sometimes see the word and a picture.”

• Recognized Sutton Science Olympian third and fourth grade student teams for their achievements in a county competition.

• Heard a report from Tecumseh High School French teachers who will be seeking authorization to organize a 2015 summer trip to Quebec for students. They will visit Montreal, Quebec City, and Tadoussac. The cost per student ranges from $1,540 for 25-29 participants, to $1,220 for 45-47 participants. The school collaborates with Saline for the trip, which is taken every other year.

• Recognized retiring Tecumseh Herald reporter Deb Wuethrich for her work with Tecumseh Public Schools.




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