Dayton Public Schools to hire Cleveland firm on a no-bid for PR

Sources have provided me with a copy of the agreement between Burges & Burges, a PR firm in Cleveland, and the Dayton Public Schools for a no-bid contract for $6,000 a month for 18 months.

I’ve attached the agreement for all to read.burges-contract

Being in the PR and advertising business- I must disclose, I’d love to work on changing the perception of the Dayton Public Schools. My firm, The Next Wave, has done award-winning work for Stivers in the past, and is currently helping their non-profit (for full disclosure).

I can also tell you that this contract is the lamest excuse of a contract I’ve ever seen.

The scope of services that are being provided for the $6,000 per month have zero promises attached. Burges & Burges could have a single phone call each month and collect the cash.

The School Board would be agreeing to undefined amounts of additional costs in addition including:

Expenses

DPS agrees to reimburse Burges & Burges for the IRS-approved rate for mileage and actual costs for shipping and volume copies that are directly realted to Burges & Burges’ performance of this agreement.

Other Costs

Fees do not cover the costs for third-party vendor services such as media time and space, surveys, postage, mailing lists, design, production and distribution of printed or video materials.

In other words, it costs $6K a month to talk to us, and everything else is billed on top, with no specified limits. For $6K a month, The Next Wave would actually provide services at a specified hourly rate, including delivery of press-ready print projects and HD video that we produced internally. Time that wasn’t utilized, wouldn’t be billed.We also don’t have to travel 200 miles each way to have a meeting. I guess this is a bit closer than Steve Avakian, their former “consultant,” who used to fly in from Boston on the taxpayers’ dime.

B&B also claims that they will:

7) Help DPS utilize its website, customer lists [public directory information] and other community data bases as a platform for “connecting” much better with parents, and guardians, local constituents, community leaders and Dayton residents. Design a plan to help transition DPS communications, customer outreach and feedback to utilize more e-mail and possibly text messages given today’s communications technology

Considering B&B’s site is built with tables (a technology that no self-respecting web developer in this century would use) and that they have no CSS, RSS or CMS- I find this laughable. Never mind that B&B would be hard pressed to tell the board who community leaders in Dayton are- never mind have their home numbers in their iPhone.

DPS actually is utilizing a CMS for their website, albeit one that I’m not familiar with (we tend to work with the big three: Drupal, Joomla! and WordPress)- which puts them far ahead of B&B.

While B&B can claim credit for helping pass the last levy- we also have to realize it was a request for a third of as much of a levy, and they spent well over half a million dollars to pass it. No one has identified where the money will come from, or how much will be allocated for buying media, printing or even the production costs associated with this proposed contract.

Supposedly, this will be voted on this Saturday at the Board’s all-day retreat/meeting/work session [UPDATE: 1pm, 6th Floor, Board of Education]. I plan on being there to ask questions- and provide options for working with a local firm. My list of Agencies that aren’t The Next Wave would be a good place for the School Board to start when looking for competent local agencies that can both save them a lot of mileage- but may actually know people in the community and how to build a campaign that will resonate with Daytonians.

The best part of the B&B proposal is that they plan on:

9) Advise the District and new Accountability Panel on how to best communicate with residents and the media in easy to understand formats regarding the ongoing progress of the District and areas that need continued improvement.

The first step would be to suggest that this bid be openly competed- and have a more clearly defined set of costs and deliverables for a district that has just barely won the trust of the taxpayers with a small operating levy.

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