Friday, March 20, 2015

DOE reverses contract - Leonie Haimson wins another one -- who will stop this lady?

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's LEONIE
In a startling reversal, the city’s Department of Education has canceled a $637 million contract it approved only a month ago for a private firm to provide computer services to all public schools, the Daily News has learned.
The Panel for Educational Policy voted on Feb. 24 to award the five-year contract — one of the costliest in school system history....
The critics jumped into action after Leonie Haimson, director of the watchdog group Class Size Matters, came across a tiny reference to a proposed $1.1 billion contract for Custom, one that was published on the school system’s website less than two weeks before the Feb. 24 meeting.
Haimson quickly alerted Public Advocate Letitia James and Helen Rosenthal, head of City Council’s contracts committee.... NYDN
Leonie never stops working. She needs to give herself a Skinny Award this year.
“It is good news for taxpayers that the city decided to stop this egregious contract,” Haimson said. “Now we need institutional reforms, including a new law requiring the Department of Education to publicly disclose all proposed contracts at least one month before being voted on.”
I can't even talk about some of the amazing stuff Leonie has done. Can someone do a Superhero logo with a big L or H or both on it?


After City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal threatened a City Council oversight hearing, aides to de Blasio and Fariña began to reconsider their actions.

In a startling reversal, the city’s Department of Education has canceled a $637 million contract it approved only a month ago for a private firm to provide computer services to all public schools, the Daily News has learned.
The Panel for Educational Policy voted on Feb. 24 to award the five-year contract — one of the costliest in school system history — to Long Island-based Custom Computer Specialists, Inc.
But on Thursday, the agency unexpectedly notified Custom that it was rescinding the award, rejecting three other competing bids, and will instead seek new requests for proposals.
The Department of Education “believes that its objectives can be better met by a new procurement that affords greater flexibility,” David Ross, director of contracting for the city’s schools, said in a letter, a copy of which The News obtained.
“It’s better to get things done right than to get them done quickly,” one city official said.
The about-face marks an unusual admission by the de Blasio administration that it botched a major initiative.
It follows a flurry of meetings in the past few weeks between school officials, City Hall aides, and a handful of elected officials furious at the way Custom was chosen.
The critics jumped into action after Leonie Haimson, director of the watchdog group Class Size Matters, came across a tiny reference to a proposed $1.1 billion contract for Custom, one that was published on the school system’s website less than two weeks before the Feb. 24 meeting.
Haimson quickly alerted Public Advocate Letitia James and Helen Rosenthal, head of City Council’s contracts committee.
Both immediately demanded more information from the Education Department. They especially wanted to know how Custom had been chosen, since the firm had previously been cited in a criminal probe for looking the other way while a corrupt school system consultant stole millions of dollars from the city.
School officials only made matters worse by waiting until the eve of the Feb. 24 vote before releasing any details about the contract. Those details showed Custom had been selected despite lower bids from two other competitors.
Even more surprising, they announced at the eleventh hour that they had somehow managed to negotiate a sharp reduction in Custom’s final price — to a still-whopping $637 million.
At the actual actual vote, several members of the educational panel openly complained about the lack of transparency from school system staff and questioned the rush to award the contract.
Ross and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told them the city could lose up to $23 million in federal reimbursements for Internet funds if the contract was not in place by the end of the March.
But with Rosenthal threatening a City Council oversight hearing and with several Panel for Educational Policy members still unhappy following their vote, aides to de Blasio and Fariña began to reconsider their actions.
The Education Department heard from the panel “as well as elected officials, about their concerns regarding the procurement process and decided that issuing a new restructured procurement . . . will allow us to reach the best possible outcome,” Ray Orlando, the schools system’s financial chief, said in a statement.
“I’m happily stunned the administration actually listened to our concerns and acted on them,” Rosenthal said.
“It is good news for taxpayers that the city decided to stop this egregious contract,” Haimson said. “Now we need institutional reforms, including a new law requiring the Department of Education to publicly disclose all proposed contracts at least one month before being voted on.”

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