Letter: County Official ‘Reports’ on Evers Visit to Wausau
*Editor’s Note- State Superintedent Tony Evers was at The Great Dane in Wausau this week on the campaign trail.
Wednesday evening, State Superintendent Tony Evers addressed those of us who wanted more information on awarding the SSIS to a Minnesota- based company. There were roughly 15 employees of Skyward present, as well as a handful of local community members. Evers immediately pulled aside the “identifiable” Skyward employees to answer some questions.
Mr. Evers started by saying, “if I had my magic wand every public bid would go to a Wisconsin company, I understand the anguish within the Stevens Point area”. He then outlined the process for seeking bids conforming to state law, and talked about his history in two districts hiring Skyward, claiming not to have any biased against the King Brothers.
He said the process began with a large group of DPI members discussing the need for a single vendor, then a smaller group was responsible for writing the outline for criteria within the RFP process. Evers said one the procurement process began there’s a “divorce” of elected officials from the process, and they then bring in an outside observer to oversee the process. He told us he will do everything he can internally to explain the process and work with Skyward.
He then ended his comments and took questions. He was first asked about the cost, of which he explained $15 million dollars approved for by the state legislature was for the state system and the school districts to train and switch over the system, and when pressed for more information, Evers said there’s a possibility more money for this was needed.
Several people asked Mr. Evers to further explain the role of the Department of Administration in the matter, but did not elaborate because he knew any information he gave could be a part of the Skyward appeal. Some people asked about the background screening conducted on the companies within the RFP process, Evers said that information would be available from the DOA once the appeals process was complete. We asked him if that meant we’d know this information only upon the contract being signed, to which he answered he did not know.
We then asked him about the selection of the evaluation committee, which began with seven people but then was cut down to five. He stated the selection was done by Department of Public Instruction Staff- not giving specifics other than his team. Then he told us they originally asked for volunteers who worked with his department to identify if they agreed with the single-vendor system and the criteria. He said that that 5 of the 7 were from Wisconsin school districts and 2 from DPI. He said one person did drop from the committee, but did not mention one person had been asked to step down. He was not sure if information the committee, or their district affiliation, could be released or if it was protected.
He said that at first it was a large group that made up the criteria. Ultimately 3 school district representatives made the decision with 2 DPI staff. He did not believe any person associated with any vendor was left off the committee. He said that he felt the single vendor was the best option because of cost and efficiency, along with other states that indicated a single vendor is the best method.
He said this was a solid process with the criteria and observed by an unbiased observer. He said he had not seen the data, but was sure that the winning bid would be the lowest cost in the long term.
Evers spoke to us privately for 14 minutes. Later on in the evening he gave general remarks to those present and did not take any questions. There was no mention of Skyward during his public address, but did mention the challenges facing the schools with doing more with less.
District 8 County Board Supervisor