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Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education votes 3-2 to renew pact with PR firm

By STEVE WIANDT Reporter Published: July 2, 2017 12:00 AM

CUYAHOGA FALLS -- Siding with the city school district's superintendent, three of the five members of the Board of Education voted in favor of renewing its contract with a local graphic designer.

Two of the Board's members, however, viewed the services related to the contract as a "luxury." And after the issue was tabled last month and a motion to table it again until August was defeated, the contract with Right Brain Design Group was approved 3-2 on June 28.

Through the contract, Right Brain President Matt Weiss agrees to provide marketing services, community relations and media relations services at a rate of $70 per hour for up to 342.8 hours with professional service fees capped at $24,000 for fiscal year 2017-18, according to the contract.

"Invoicing for this contract is not to exceed the cap without express consent of [Cuyahoga Falls City School District] in writing to Right Brain Design Group," the contract states.

The contract runs from July 1 through June 30, 2018.

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The document notes that Weiss' "typical house rate" is $90 per hour and he is giving the district a discounted rate. The contract has the same terms as last year, Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols said.

"I am very happy to have the opportunity to continue helping the district promote the positive things that are happening with our students and in our schools," Weiss told the Falls News-Press on June 29.

Board member David Martin said he successfully pushed to table action on Weiss' contract earlier in June because he believed the work Right Brain was doing for the district was a "luxury" during a time when teachers were being handed layoff notices as part of a reduction in force action.

On June 28, Nichols said the work Right Brain has been doing for the district, including the production of The Roar newsletter published within the Cuyahoga Falls News-Press, helps inform the public about what's going on in the school district. "This is a huge communication piece for us," Nichols said.

"I still consider this a luxury," Martin said. "There is a benefit, but it is still a luxury We still have people on layoff." Martin made a motion to table the action until August, giving the administration time to propose a "plan to shore up the funding."

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"This not a luxury," said Board Member Patty White. "The money paid to Right Brain would not allow us to bring back one teacher."

The motion to delay action was defeated 3-2, which was also the vote that approved the contract in the following action. White, President Karen Schofield and Vice President Kathy Moffet voted in favor of the Right Brain contract. Martin and Board member Barb Gunter voted against it.

During a recess in the meeting, Gunter said over the past four years the district has paid Right Brain Design Group and Record Publishing Co. (Falls News-Press) more than $120,000. "That could clearly save a teacher," she said.

"Not to mention, there hasn't been clear transparency with the expenditures for Right Brain, such as the shield that we were told cost $50 [when] it actually cost $1,100," said Gunter. Last fall the district adopted an academic shield logo designed by Weiss.

"The cap [in the contract] is on services, not on total expenses (flags, yard signs, materials, etc)," Nichols told the Falls News-Press in an email June 29.

Gunter said she found in district records money paid to Right Brain went toward the purchase of business cards, flagpoles, flags and yard signs. "I don't think the community would want to see their tax money spent that way when we keep increasing student fees," she said.

Two teachers who were laid off will

return to work

In a separate action involving personnel, the Board voted unanimously to recall two teachers who'd been laid off and appoint them to other positions. Anna Lombardo, who had been a teacher at the high school before the RIF, was appointed to teach career exploration at Bolich Middle School. Nicole Snider, a former high school career tech business teacher, was named a math teacher at the high school.

Email: swiandt@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9420

Twitter: @SteveWiandt_RPC


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