Miami-Dade County Public Schools system to track contracts behind schedule
Personnel issues are part of delay, according to software company
When Superintendent Alberto Carvalho courted Black Miami to support the $1.2 billion general obligation bond, he promised that the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District would track Black business participation.
In an ideal world, Carvalho wanted to monitor who got major contracts, which subcontractors were hired, who was hired as construction workers, and eventually track Black vendor procurement for goods and services.
Yet, more than four years later, a compliance software system — a key piece of the process that would track whether the district kept its promise — is still missing. The software system, called B2GNow, is used by more than 200 public systems from cities and school boards to other entities where taxpayer dollars are used.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools has purchased the software, but the manufacturer said the system is not operating, in part because of time lost due to a lack of personnel in the department’s Office of Economic Opportunity.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools officials were contacted repeatedly to discuss B2GNow, but declined on Tuesday. “School board representatives are not available for comment,” said spokesman John Schuster.
Detractors say the missing compliance system validates their concerns that the district is not serious about keeping its promises.
“It was a great idea, but history has shown us that through previous rollouts with the school district what they say we’re going to get is not what we get,” said William “D.C.” Clark, a leader with Inner City Alumni for Responsible Education, or ICARE. “Our needs were put back to the end when the money ran out, so we would get a fraction of what were were promised.”
In recent school board meetings, both board members Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall of District 2 and Steve Gallon III of District 1 have questioned Carvalho’s top lieutenants about the compliance issues, especially concerning hiring on school construction sites in their areas.
Gallon described B2G in detail at the April 12 School Board meeting. He also wanted to know the reasons for the delay in its implementation.
“The policy references the adoption and implementation of an automated system. B2GNow is the system that the District adopted and purchased under this policy provision. The issue is not with the system,” Gallon said. “The issue I have and that a growing number of the public has is the fact that the system has not been fully operational, especially with the key measures of dollar and cents. The system is designed to quickly show the Board and the public the money.”
Gallon said that critical modules for determining how much of the $1.2 billion was spent and with whom has not been provided as required of the policy and deserving to the public.
“The administration stated timelines in which this would be completed. I have addressed this for the past several months. With over $500 million having been spent, we must account for these funds in an open and transparent manner,” Gallon said. “The system has been in place for several years. Not having this information as required by the policy and deserving to the public is concerning.”
The source of community disdain is found in the backstory: Community leaders said Carvalho offered numerous assurances that the bond program would have a policy of openness. Members of ICARE had urged residents to vote against the bond, citing the broken promises.
After it was approved, in January 2013, Carvalho and district leaders held workshops on the capital plan rollout of the bond. That plan highlighted the guiding principals, the overarching goals and phases for construction from 2013 through 2019.
That rollout also gave assurances that the district would make available to diverse audiences information “for transparent reporting on a program of this size and complexity.”
The school system seems to have banked its compliance success on B2GNow, a software system the specializes in diversity and compliance issues for public organizations. Officials with the Phoenix-based company say they work with more than 200 public entities, including other cities and school districts.
“We help them manage their diversity programs,” Frank Begalke, chief operating officer said. The company maintains and manages the system and streamlines the validation of data. He said the software is configured to the specific requirements of the program.
Begalke said it takes about 12 to 16 weeks to implement the software, and that the length of time depends upon the number of modules requested. He said part of MDCPS system is up and running, but not all.
Also, he noted that Miami-Dade County just started implementing the program. He did not say when the county’s contract started, but that it was over a year. The city of Orlando has used B2G for seven years. It took a couple of months to get the system up and running, Begalke said.
In the case of MDCPS, Begalke said the installation personnel issues hampered implementation of the system. The top two employees assigned to the project, Torey Alston and Brian Williams, left the school district in 2015, shortly after the work began. “They were the two people we worked with. Right when we started, Torey left, and Brian left sometime after,” he said. “There was no leadership. Without those people in place the project stood still for a while.”
Begalke said that in general, lack of personnel resources causes delays. “Users are needed to help configure the software,” he said.