The District 97 School Board voted Wednesday to halt the work of its outside consultant conducting its Strategic Plan citing among a number of concerns, the lack of community input during the process.  

The board at its meeting on Jan. 25, voted to withhold payment for Texas-based MGT American. The board will decide at its meeting on Feb. 8 whether to stay with MGT or fire the firm.

The board thus far has not approved of the firm’s handling of its first Strategic Plan in more than a decade.

MGT had not garnered the level of community involvement promised in its proposal, said some members. The firm also failed to provide such information as a project calendar and schedule of the process for stakeholders to work from. Other information pertaining to specific timetables and data collected by MGT about the district were inadequate, members said.

“We had ongoing concerns and wanted to make clear what we expected this process to look like,” said Dist. 97 Supt. Constance Collins. “Everything is on hold.”

During the closed-door, executive session meeting on Wednesday, the board voted to postpone MGT’s work, which included holding the first of two community forums scheduled to start next week.

MGT was hired in late October 2005 for a total cost of $74,160. MGT was set to be paid $13,832 for services provided for the month of September 2005. The firm also had $5,000 due as payment at the time of signing its contract. The board voted unanimously to hold those payments at its Jan. 25, school board meeting.

The board had asked MGT to provide it with information concerning the direction of its work. By the time of the Feb. 1, executive meeting, board members remained unsatisfied.

“The information provided was insufficient,” said board president Carolyn Newberry Schwartz. “The board was working with MGT to make this process successful. We certainly hired them with the hope that it would be. Right now, our focus is trying to protect the assets of the district.”

The Wednesday meeting went into closed session at around 9 that evening. The session concluded after more than two hours of discussion.

MGT was one of four consulting firms vying for the Dist. 97 Strategic Plan contract. The Texas-based firm beat out Cambridge Associates, the firm that conducted the district’s last plan in 1989. MGT was chosen primarily for promising broad based community involvement. 

Dist. 97 Public Information Officer Gail Crantz said Thursday that the district would contact committee members and stakeholders concerning the board’s decision.

A Strategic Plan steering committee was formed shortly after MGT’s hiring. The firm conducted focus group meetings in December with Dist. 97 administrators, staff and board members. Focus group meetings at the elementary school scheduled to start Feb. 6, are on hold.

“There are a lot of people who have given their time and we want to keep the momentum going,” said Collins.

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