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Reading, Writing and Questionable Bidding

Where there’s smoke there’s often fire.

Well, the smoke is getting thick around embattled Commission of Education Chris Nicastro. On the heels of news that Nicastro had covert conversations with Rex Sinquefield lobbyist Kate Casas about designing ballot language for a petition against teacher tenure, the Kansas City Star has published a riveting piece detailing a secret scheme to create a new school system for Kansas City public schools even thought the system was prepared to announce academic improvements. 

Here are the lowlights.

A questionable bid awarded to CEE-Trust even thought their bid cost three times as much ($385,000) as another equally qualified alternative CTAC ($124,700)... 

“The electronic trail exposes a rushed bidding process, now criticized, that ultimately landed Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust a $385,000 contract to develop a long-range overhaul for the district’s failing schools.” Kansas City Star – December 7, 2013

“The emails showed how the department, CEE-Trust and the foundations wanted CEE-Trust to be assigned the task by a memorandum of understanding, only to have the state board reject that approach.

But when the state instead went to a bidding process, the records show, it transferred the language of the memorandum of understanding into the bid specifications. State staff members who had collaborated with CEE-Trust on the original memorandum became part of the state’s evaluation team.

They ultimately awarded CEE-Trust the contract, even though an experienced Massachusetts-based agency had offered its services for a third of CEE-Trust’s bid.” Kansas City Star – December 7, 2013

A foregone conclusion...

“We felt like we had done everything right,” Kansas City Superintendent Steve Green said. “We thought it would be cause for celebration. … But from Jefferson City the response was lukewarm — like they wanted to dismiss what in other cities would be characterized as a dramatic turnaround.” Kansas City Star – December 7, 2013

“In mid-August, days before the state’s district report cards were to be released to the public showing a surprisingly high score for Kansas City, a CEE-Trust partner shared his talking points with Nicastro and staff debunking the performance of a district where 70 percent of the students still perform below proficiency.” Kansas City Star – December 7, 2013

Sunshined emails are here:

DESE - CEE Trust Emails 1 by MOPublicSchoolsTrust

DESE - CEE Trust Emails 2 by MOPublicSchoolsTrust

DESE - CEE Trust Emails 3 by MOPublicSchoolsTrust


DESE - CEE Trust Emails 4 by MOPublicSchoolsTrust


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