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WCPS likely to adopt new minority business soliciting procedures

August 28, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Board of Education will have new guidelines for soliciting minority-owned and -operated businesses for building contracts in order to continue receiving state funds for those projects.

The deadline to adopt the new policy is Sept. 30, and each county school system in Maryland is required to approve the requirements, said Rob Rollins, acting executive director for school operations.

The state-mandated goal has been for 25 percent of the cost of a project to be paid to companies owned or operated by minorities. The goal was for 7 percent of that money to go to businesses owned and operated by blacks and for 10 percent to go to companies owned by women.

Under the proposed guidelines being considered by the school board, school system officials would review the project and determine what a reasonable percentage would be, Rollins said.

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"The updated procedures will require more planning and effort for each school system to implement," he said. "However, the procedures will improve our ability to meet minority business participation goals while maintaining a fair and level playing field for all contractors."

The school board voted last week to approve a draft of the new policy, and will vote during an upcoming meeting whether to adopt the changes.

Lisa Freeman, supervisor of purchasing, said the policy change is, in part, designed to help school systems achieve the goal dictated by the state.

"Overall, we have not met our goal, but that's not unusual," Freeman said.

Freeman and Rollins said the 25 percent goal was unrealistic for some school systems, including Washington County Public Schools, on some projects because of the lack of qualifying businesses. In order to qualify, the business must be registered through Maryland's Minority Business Enterprise (MBE).

An MBE is a business that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more minorities, according to the proposed policy. A minority is generally defined as an individual who is black, Hispanic American, Asian American, Native American, a woman or a disabled person. The state also recognizes nonprofit firms that are organized to promote the interests of the physically or mentally disabled as a minority business.

Officials with the MBE did not return phone calls Wednesday requesting the total number of MBE businesses in the state and in the county.

Washington County Public Schools hosted a meeting last week with representatives of the Governor's Office on Minority Affairs, Public School Construction Program, Maryland State Department of Education, Department of General Services and Western Maryland counties. Officials discussed the implications of the recently approved state changes.

Policy comments



To comment on the proposed policy regarding Minority Business Enterprise procedures for state-funded school construction projects, send an e-mail to Roxanne R. Ober at broxober@aol.com; Bernadette M. Wagner at dettandmatt@yahoo.com; Donna Brightman at Botanica96@aol.com; or Boyd Michael, deputy superintendent, staff liaison at michaboy@wcboe.k12.md.us.

Written comments may be sent to Washington County Board Of Education, P.O. Box 730, Hagerstown, MD 21740

Comments are due by Sept. 2.

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