Lack of competitive bidding over reading program software was questioned in suspended Superintendent John Q. Porter's former school system while he was there, according to a Washington Post report.
Failing to seek competitive bids for expanding the same program lies at the top of a notice detailing 21 allegations against Porter that led to his suspension with pay by the Oklahoma City Public Schools board Monday. A Feb. 6 hearing will determine Porter's future with the district.
A partnership between Wireless Generation and Montgomery County, Md., schools " Porter's former employer " garnered critical responses from some Montgomery County Council members at the time of its formation, the Post's Daniel de Vise reported Tuesday. As part of the arrangement, the school system paid some software development costs and received royalties on outside sales.
"It appears that (Montgomery County Public Schools) did not use a formal procurement solicitation process," i.e., competitive bids, council member Marilyn Praisner said in a 2005 memo, according to the Post.
Praisner told Oklahoma Gazette she felt uncomfortable about approving the partnership, but did not vote against the overall budget action.
"I raised some concerns about the initiative of the program, what the long-term costs were, why this wasn't bid, why there weren't others who could have bid on it "¦ the relationship with the company," said Praisner, noting it's not unusual for her to ask questions.
"There haven't been any follow-up conversations; we tend to deal with the issue of the moment and not to go back."
Montgomery County's Wireless Generation program was a pilot of the reading-skill-assessment software, nationally released in 2005. Porter led the project, according to the Post, which was heralded as highly successful.
The expansion of the software in Oklahoma City schools cost $365,593.90. The notice issued by the school board Jan. 7 outlining allegations against Porter suggests four competitors, which could have submitted competitive bids.
'NO OTHER VENDOR'
Porter, who acknowledged using the software while serving as associate/deputy superintendent in Montgomery County, wrote in a statement "there is no other vendor" that sells the specific assessment program.
"As a proprietary solution and consistent with board policy "¦ there was no need to do a request for proposal," he wrote. "This exact program is successful in many other urban districts."
Porter also stated that the Oklahoma City school board approved the software's purchase for all district schools. In a Jan. 6 statement, Porter said the program was used already in some local schools and his goal was to make it available to kindergarteners through third-graders.
"The policy of the school district as I understood it did not require a bid," he wrote. "I understood that we followed the very same selection process used by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The school board itself authorized the purchase, so this allegation is false." "Emily JermanMore Porter coverage:
School's superintendent's suspension causes heated board meeting
OKCPS' votes to suspend superintendent