Remains both Superintendent and Head of Private Company the Profits off Contract with the Schools
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 10, 2013)
After expecting the contract with ICE to end before Jan. 1, The Ferndale School Board received another surprise from Superintendent Gary Meier. He changed his mind, and has announced, through a notice dated Dec. 30, 2012 and given to then Board-President Keith Warnick, that he rescinded his prior cancellation.
Meier, Warnick and Chuck Moeser (former School Board President and Current Board Treasurer) say that Meier provided notice of cancelling the contract between ICE and Ferndale Schools on Oct. 1, 2012. The date has been under scrutiny since the contract was publicly discussed after that date, and since the story changed from being cancelled via email to a letter given in a private meeting that was not shared with the public or other members of the Board until a month later. It was also questioned because Meier referred to a November 3, 2012 news article as the final straw in his decision.
The contract was discussed throughout the community prior to the November School Board Election. The Ferndale 115 News reported the details of the contract, and outlined the dual roles that Meier plays, being both the Superintendent and the owner of a private consulting firm which contracts with the School District to provide services.
His firm, ICE (Innovative Consulting in Education), is the middleman between Ferndale Schools and Michigan Future, a group that works to set up and support alternative educational schools in the Detroit area. Meier’s private company keeps over half of the revenue brought in by the Michigan Future contract, while simultaneously using Ferndale Schools employees, supplies and other resources to fulfill the obligations of the contract.
In 2011 School Board members voted to allow Meier and his top administrative staff to do outside consulting. They also voted on a contract with Meier’s consulting firm ICE to allow him to use school district resources without any oversight or tracking, such as time sheets or supply invoices. And they extended his Superintendent contract to the maximum time allowed – five years.
Regardless of how the newly-sworn-in School Board officials respond to the inconsistency of the contract’s existence, Meier is free to continue his work making $225,000 a year as Superintendent, and to keep the $370,000 a year ICE contract with Michigan Future, plus whatever other consulting work he does.
Without the contract between Ferndale Schools and ICE, Meier would have to do his consulting and other work outside of school hours, and he would not be able to use Ferndale Schools employees during the work day, or supplies provided by the District to do it.
The duties that Ferndale Schools must provide to ICE, according to the contract, are: technology access and support, telephone and cell phone access and support, photocopies and supplies, office supplies, staff access and support, email account services, website development and maintenance, graphic design/communications services, clerical services, bookkeeping and accounting, vendor payment, payroll and auditing services, human resource services, access to administrative support personnel, and other similar services to be agreed upon by the parties.
For providing the above services, ICE pays Ferndale Schools $180,000. That means that ICE, owned by Gary Meier, gets to keep $190,000 of the$370,000 Michigan Future contract.
Without the contract, the School District would have lost $180,000 in revenue. However, because costs associated with that revenue were not tracked, there is no documentation of how profitable the arrangement actually was.
Newly elected School Board President Jim O’Donnell confirmed that Meier has sent notice rescinding his earlier cancellation of the ICE contract.
“Yes, the board received email notice of the termination notice being rescinded, signed by Gary Meier and then Board President Keith Warnick. The notice was dated December 30. The reason given was to avoid financial harm to the district during this difficult budget year,” O’Donnell said in an email. “Until the full school board has an opportunity to review this at a meeting, I can’t answer your final two questions on behalf of the board. I am sure that all parties wish to resolve this matter constructively. Once we develop those answers, I promise to get back to you.”
To read more about the ICE contract, check out our previous stories following this issue: