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Committee recommends software program

ALBANY -- Following its own policies paid off for Dougherty County School System officials.

At Tuesday morning's Board of Education Finance Committee meeting, the committee recommended taking the second-lowest bid for the Exceptional Students Program's new software management system.

The Finance Committee -- made up of David Maschke, the Rev. James Bush and Anita Williams-Brown -- recommended the three-year, $120,000 SEMS Tracker system from Eutactics of Gloucester, Mass. The seven board members will vote on the recommendation at the Jan. 14 school board meeting.

The SEMS Tracker system will help the Dougherty County School System special education department to manage its records and track special education students. The system will cost $70,000 the first year and $25,000 the second and third years of the contract. DCSS Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd said it would be paid by federal stimulus funds.

"Will the state allow us to us these funds in the third year since stimulus (funds) are only two years?," Maschke asked Lloyd.

"Yes," said Zora Allen, director of the Exceptional Students Program.

Allen and other school officials were directed to follow Dougherty County School System's established bid policy after Allen made a request for the SEMS Tracker system with the Finance Committee at a Nov. 18 meeting.

The request hit a snag when Bush asked Allen if she had followed DCSS bid policy. Allen said she had not. As a result, school officials conducted a bid process with Assistant Director of Purchasing and Supply Services Jason Renfore. Six companies responded with Canadian company SPED Assist as the top bidder with $65,000 and Eutactics was second at $120,000.

Lloyd and Allen recommended not to go with SPED since its only U.S. experience was at a private school in California. Allen said there were other concerns with the company as well.

"The questions we asked they couldn't respond to," Allen said.

Superintendent Sally Whatley said the Web-based SEMS Tracker system is a marked improvement from the current i-Plan system Dougherty County began using several years ago.

"This is the most comprehensive program we've ever had," Whatley said.

At the November meeting, Allen said she started looking for a more reliable system two years ago when using i-Plan became problematic since at times it was losing information that took hours to input.

"Rev. Bush should be acknowledged for raising the question about the bid solicitation and should be credited for ensuring that established policy was properly followed," Maschke said after Tuesday's 11-minute meeting.

"That's why we need all the bids to go through our procurement (process)," Bush said. "Jason (Renfore is) a professional and knows how things should be bid out. I feel vindicated."

Maschke concluded: "I feel this maintains integrity for the process."

After the board meeting, Lloyd told The Herald how the Dougherty County School System had started to prepare for possible predicated snowfall on Thursday. He said Alan Skinner, assistant director of facilities maintenance/capital projects services and custodial services, had set aside kitchen salt.

"And, he's looking to see if he can get more from the city and county to make sure the safety of our sites if it snows or freezes (Thursday)," Lloyd said. "In anticipation, we're trying to get things ready."

After the meeting, Lloyd said the phones and computer systems at the DCSS Gifted Education Center, located at 722 Corn Ave., had been fixed after they were out all day Monday. Lloyd said the problem impacted about 50 workers.

"On New Year's Eve someone celebrating shot in the sky (by the building)," Lloyd said. "They found cartridges. They actually shot through the fiber optics that connects the schools."

The phone lines and computer systems were working again when Gifted Education Center Office Manager Joyce Stephenson arrived at 7 a.m. Tuesday.