Nashua Board of Ed Violates Policy, Approves $425,000 Architectural Design Contract Without Review / Competitive Bids - Granite Grok

Nashua Board of Ed Violates Policy, Approves $425,000 Architectural Design Contract Without Review / Competitive Bids

Once again, a case where a governmental body can’t be bothered to follow its own rules. This time it’s a renovation design contract for the building meant to house the Pre-K program.

First, a little background on the district’s Pre-K program, starting with how the district acquired the building.

On October 14, 2020, the Nashua School District’s Finance Committee was asked to approve the purchase of a building without offering  Board members the opportunity to even walk through the building. Due to Covid, of course.

Union Leader Oct. 25, 2020:

The Nashua School District is considering purchasing a $1.8 million building on Franklin Street to consolidate all 16 preschool programs into one location.

The building would also house the district’s Brentwood program, which is an alternative high school for students with emotional, social and academic challenges who don’t thrive in a traditional high school setting.

On October 26, the full Board of Education approved the purchase of the new school building.

Recommendation to approve the Real Estate Purchase and Sales Agreement between the Nashua School District and Grace Fellowship Church for the purchase of 55 Franklin Street, in the amount of $1,825,000.

Six days prior, on October 20, the Nashua School District sent out an eNews bulletin asking – well, let’s call it by its true name, “bribing” – parents to enroll their children in the district’s Pre-K program with free laptops.

Nashua School District:

Reminder Waterford Upstart: Enroll your preschooler in this free at-home school readiness program, giving them a fun start in reading, math, and science in just 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week! Laptop, provided and yours to keep, and internet access available while enrolled.

Where did the “free” laptops come from? Covid relief funds, possibly, but who knows? It’s not like the administration has any sense of fiscal responsibility. Was the Board even informed?  In any case, the district desperately needed to increase enrollment in their Pre-K program because enrollment for 2019-2020 was 326, while enrollment for 2020-21 is only 165. Enrollment was down 50% in one year!  That sure makes it hard to justify a brand new building for Pre-K, no?

No concern, as usual, over the private Pre-K schools that might go out of business, any more than there was concern over putting private Kindergarten programs out of business in 2019 when the district initiated its full day Kindergarten. The superintendent at the time claimed full day Kindergarten would be “at no additional cost” to the district. That was the marketing pitch, which the Board majority and the public eagerly accepted. Reality was that the cost was considerable, extra teachers, equipment and building space.

On Monday, February 8, 2021, the Board approved a $425,000 architectural design contract for needed improvements at the Franklin Street building.  It was approved 8-1 at the full Board meeting, without first being reviewed or approved by the Finance Committee. A copy of the illegally approved contract is on page 56-64 of the meeting agenda.

District Policy, DHA  Contracts / Signing  Authority, was violated by the Board. It requires the Finance Committee to approve all contracts over $10,000 before being sent to the full Board for approval. When questioned, Board President Heather Raymond admitted that the contract was not sent to Finance.

Nashua Board of Education         Policy DHA

Contracts/Purchase Orders for $10,000 or more, shall be approved by the Finance and Operations Committee before award, and referred to the full Board of Education for their approval before award.

The Superintendent or designee is authorized to sign contracts on the School District’s behalf.

Contracts for amounts less than those stated above may be signed as soon as the bid is selected.

Contracts for amounts equal to or greater than those above may be signed after approval.

All contracts and purchase orders shall be by competitive bid or quote as outlined in the Business Office Operations Manual. . . .

Policy DHA also requires competitive bidding for contracts over $10,000. This contract was for $425,000 and there was no competitive bidding. Board member Paula Johnson, chairman of the Finance Committee, questioned the legality of not sending this contract to the Finance Committee and voted against the measure. To no avail, of course. Rules?  The Board majority don’t need no stinking rules!