Bidding required on school contracts New board takes early step in role as financial caretaker

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In one of its first actions as caretaker of the school system's finances, the Baltimore school board adopted temporary rules yesterday requiring bids for all nonemergency contracts over $15,000.

It was an initial step in the separation of the school system from City Hall, required by legislation intended to streamline school management and improve education. Previously the Board of Estimates handled the school system's contracts.

Also yesterday, the board hired roofers and consultants; spent $977,000 on bread for school meals; paid the Abell Foundation $35,200 to help defray the cost of educating 18 city children at the Baraka School in Kenya last year; and resolved a minor bid dispute as it approved its first contracts.

In coming months, the board and the school administration will establish policies for spending taxpayers' money, said Robert E. Schiller, the school system's interim chief executive officer. His employment contract, which runs from June 30 to Sept. 30, was among the agreements approved by the board.

Schiller will be paid $11,000 a month and up to $1,500 a month for living expenses as he prepares the schools to open this fall and helps the board set up its search for a permanent CEO. His contract may be extended to Dec. 31.

"It's going to take the better part of a year to set up the procedures and the systems for taking on this responsibility," he said of the school system's new control over its own finances.

Yesterday, the board agreed to require bidding and to get at least three bids before hiring professional services -- but also gave itself room to waive bids for emergency purchases.

"We're starting from scratch," Colene Y. Daniel, chairman of the board's facilities and finance committee, said after an action-packed meeting that revealed much of the board's behind-the-scenes labor of recent weeks.

In other action last night, the board established its parent and community advisory board, and began cutting layers from the central office bureaucracy.

Schiller announced two goals: to reduce the central office staff by 15 percent to 20 percent, and to complete the administration's 3-year-old effort to shift authority to the schools.

"The system must break with the past and move in a new direction," he said as the board approved a reorganization plan that breaks up the former superintendent's cabinet and creates new management jobs.

The board's decision adds to the list of vacancies that must be filled.

"It's taken 25 years for the school system to get into the shape that it's in, and I'm hoping that we can identify improvements that can be made quickly to begin to turn it around," said Michael Hamilton, one of 14 parents and grandparents of city students named to the Parent and Community Advisory Board.

Other school systems rely on volunteer parent-teacher councils and committees to stay in touch with families, Baltimore now has a parent board established by the school-reform law.

Others named to the advisory board were: Barbara M. Moore and Edna Manns representing parents citywide; Mattie J. Bosley and Theresa B. Gwynn representing parents of students who receive school services paid for by federal Title I funds; and Cherby Worthington and Carolyn Spears representing the school system's six regions.

Also appointed were: Edwina L. Green, Bernadette Forman and Hamilton from city parent-teacher associations; Lawrence Fulton and Ramona Piskor for parents of disabled students; and Angela Tate, Julie Draper and Charvette Barfield representing the parents who sued the state of Maryland to win better funding for city schools.

Pub Date: 7/09/97

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