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School board balks at PR pitch

January 08, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Most members of the Washington County Board of Education want to hear more than one proposal to explain the school system's strategic plan to the community.

A Hagerstown public relations firm pitched the idea of marketing the plan for $18,000 at the board's meeting Tuesday. The company, Marketing Solutions, already conducted a $6,800 survey that found the school system needs better public relations.

None of the School Board members have seen the results of that survey yet, but they decided to formally hear Marketing Solutions' proposal Jan. 19.

"It's an add-on and we haven't seen the first product," said board member B. Marie Byers. She said hiring the same firm twice without consulting others gives a bad impression.

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"It will be a poor reflection (on us) if we don't look at other proposals," she said.

The strategic plan is a 20-page document intended to help fix the school system's problems and set its direction over the next 10 years. School Board members say they want the community to understand the plan, which some consider confusing. They agree the task is urgent.

"The time constraints are looming," said Edwin Hayes, president of the School Board. However, he wants to hear more than one firm's ideas.

"We need to take a look and see if there are other proposals out there. I think that's the position of the board," he said.

Like Hayes, board members Andrew Humphreys and Doris J. Nipps said they think going through another bid process would take too long. "Time is of the essence," said Vice President Paul Bailey.

A formal request for bids would take four to eight weeks, according to Purchasing Manager Robert L. Stambaugh. Generally, the board's policy is to seek bids for any job above $15,000, Stambaugh said.

However, consulting projects and architectural plans are exceptions. The superintendent also may waive the bidding policy "for a good reason," he said. In other words, the decision to seek more bids is at the board's discretion.

"I am still hesitant to go forward without extending bids to other companies," said board member Herbert J. Hardin.

"We may have to revisit this topic. If they did extend it to other companies, that would give us some idea of where we're going."

Board member Mary L. Wilfong also wants other bids. "I just need more information," she said.

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