School board to rebid computer contract


School officials are preparing to rebid a major computer contract after the Board of Education refused yesterday to consider a request from the computer supplier that won the job to uphold the multimillion-dollar contract.

The board's decision is a victory for ISmart, which submitted the low bid on the contract. Last month, the Elkridge company appealed the contract award - which went to GTSI - and persuaded the board to order a rebid. ISmart claimed that the job should have gone to the lowest bidder.

ISmart's bid was $23.8 million, while GTSI's came in at $25 million.

School officials have said rebidding the contract will delay the installation of thousands of new computers in county schools and is a major setback for the program. Called "Technology Refresh," the initiative is the centerpiece of an effort to upgrade technological capabilities throughout the school system.

The first new computers were to have been delivered in May, with installation scheduled before students return to class in August. The rebid means that the first computers won't arrive in classrooms until October or November at the earliest, said Robert C. Leib, director of business services for county schools.

Leib said yesterday that he plans to seek direction from the board on how to approach the second bidding process.

"We're trying to find a procurement strategy that's going to work," he said. "I don't know what my options are yet." Leib said he was "disappointed" with the board's decision.

"But I'll follow my board's direction, and I have their assurance that they are fully behind this project," he said.

Virginia-based GTSI asked the board to reconsider its order to rebid the contract, claiming that cost was not the deciding factor in selecting a computer supplier.

The company maintained that bidders were evaluated in several areas, and technical expertise was weighted more heavily than cost.

GTSI said it is prepared to appeal to the state board if the county board elects to go ahead with a second bidding process.

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