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VOL. 126 | NO. 240 | Friday, December 09, 2011

Schools Planning Commission Hires Consultant, Sets Budget

By Bill Dries

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Boston Consulting Group has been hired as the consultant to the schools consolidation planning commission and could begin its work as early as Friday, Dec. 9.

The commission approved the contract through the non-profit Shelby County Schools Education Foundation Thursday afternoon in a unanimous voice vote.

Because the planning commission does not have the authority to enter into contracts, the foundation agreed to, in effect, carry the $1.7 million contract for the commission.

The fee is to be paid by private donors including non-profit groups.

The foundation is in no way involved with what the consultant does nor is it responsible for paying the fee which includes all work and expenses of the consulting group which has worked in other education reform efforts including with the reformed New Orleans school system in 2008.

Planning commission chairwoman Barbara Prescott said the consultants’ first action will likely be to interview of the commission members one on one to begin building a data base the consultants have assembled in their past work with other school systems.

Commissioner Christine Richards, an attorney who helped draft the agreement, said the consultants will have four phases to their work. The organizational phase, which begins immediately, should be completed next month. The development of a draft plan working with the commission is due by April with any refinements to the plan by August. The final proposal would be submitted to the countywide school board and state education officials for their approval a year from now.

Shelby County’s two public school systems will consolidate at the start of the 2013-2014 school year. Until then the two school systems operate separately but under the countywide school board that took office in October under terms of a federal court order and a consent decree agreed to by all parties in a federal lawsuit over the consolidation.

In other action, the planning commission approved a $2.3 million budget, including the cost of the BCG contract, made up of $2 million from private donors and foundations and $100,000 set aside in Shelby County government’s budget. The remaining $200,000 is an estimate of in-kind services county government has provided to the commission in the way of personnel including county attorneys.

Prescott said some of the donors requested anonymity. Those that didn’t and have either pledged or already contributed money are FedEx Corp. First Tennessee Bank Foundation, AutoZone, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and the Community Foundation.

In addition to money, the Community Foundation is also providing the office space at its headquarters the BCG will work out of.

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