Sunday, Oct 23, 2016
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TPS approves contract with Mich. firm to conduct performance audition of district

The Toledo Board of Education approved a contract today with a private consulting firm to conduct a performance audit of district operations.

Evergreen Solutions, based in Macomb, Mich., was selected over the State Auditor's office and the Council of the Great City Schools. 

Board members voted unanimously in favor of Evergreen, whose contract will not exceed $150,000.

A performance audit could reveal cost savings and efficiencies for the financially-strapped district, and comes in the wake of the latest in a string of levy defeats for TPS.

"We are about to undertake something that has been needed for some time," board member Larry Sykes said.

The board last month directed TPS staff to begin negotiations with the Council of the Great City Schools for a performance audit, though left itself room to choose another firm. It's ultimate choice of Evergreen drew kudos from two community members today, including John McAvoy, a board member with the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition who had criticized the original board preference for the Council.

While board members have shown enthusiasm for a performance audit, it could take considerable political will to implement what may be significant structural changes.

"What I'm looking forward to is the administration and this board implementing the recommendations that come out as a result of the audit,"  board member Bob Vasquez said.

Part of the board's reasoning for its selection of Evergreen was the firm's timeline for completion: the firm's final report should be completed by mid-March, with recommendations for implementation due at the beginning of April.

Contracts for the district's three labor unions expire next year, and negotiations may begin in the spring. Having the audit complete before negotiations would allow the district to use its recommendations during contract talks. 

The president of the district's American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union questioned the motives behind the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition championing the audit's cause. Dave Blyth, Jr., said he wasn't worried what the audit would say, since his union's membership have given concessions in recent years. But he said that Mr. McAvoy has focused on things such as collective bargaining agreements and possible privatization of services; he said the audit should be "agenda free."

"It seems to me that the plan here would be once again to use the unions as a punching bag," Mr. Blythe said.

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