OMAHA (AP) — The Nebraska Department of Education hired two consultants to guide schools struggling with low test scores and performance, including Schuyler Central High, even though some board members were against the move.
The state Board of Education approved two one-year contracts worth $350,000 in total. The consultants were recruited to help intervene at Schuyler Central High School and in the Santee school district which are deemed "priority" schools because of their poor performance.
Schuyler Community Schools Superintendent Dan Hoesing told the Schuyler Sun on Tuesday morning that his district had not heard from the Nebraska Department of Education about it yet. He said he would comment once the district knew more about how the consultants would impact Schuyler.
The state chose two Omaha consultants: Ann Mausbach, an associate professor of education leadership at Creighton University, and Linda Richards, a partner in PRISM Advisors and former school board member.
But hiring private consultants has drawn criticism from state board members who said they want to see state employees intervening instead. Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said that state salary limits on his department have prevented him from hiring staff to do intervention work, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Under state law, the education department sends in an intervention team to develop and implement an improvement plan for the priority schools. Since 2015, the state has intervened in four schools: Druid Hill Elementary, Loup County Elementary, Santee Middle School and Schuyler Central High School. Druid Hill met state goals and was delisted in 2017. Loup County was delisted last spring.
One advantage to hiring Nebraska consultants is they don't require out-of-state travel expenses.
In 2015, the department hired Kathy Kennedy of KLK Consulting from North Carolina and paid her $4,000 a day to work in priority schools. Her work included writing improvement plans and coaching teachers and administrators. Her associates were paid $3,000 a day. Her fees totaled $965,000 in contracts from February 2016 through January of this year.
Her firm remains under contract with the state. It's not clear if the state will negotiate her services at a lower rate.
Schuyler Sun staff contributed to this report.