Oklahoma Education Department's no-bid contracts create questions

Representatives of companies that received no-bid contracts from the Oklahoma Education Department told The Oklahoman they had no objections to being solicited for donations to pay for state educational conferences.
by Randy Ellis Published: April 1, 2012
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Representatives of companies that received no-bid contracts from the state Education Department told The Oklahoman they had no objections to being solicited for donations to pay for state educational conferences.

The contracts, themselves, however, recently have come under scrutiny.

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi terminated many of them.

Barresi ended the contract with one no-bid vendor after questioning whether the state was receiving much value for the $227,010 a year it had been paying Teachers-Teachers.com.

Teachers-Teachers.com was awarded its initial contract in April 2007 — less than a month after the company paid $3,000 for sponsorship and exhibit space at an educational conference hosted by the state Education Department.

Teachers-Teachers.com also donated $2,500 in 2008 and $2,500 in 2009.

The state Education Department paid Teachers-Teachers.com $227,010 a year under no-bid contracts for each of the next three years — reaching a total of $908,040 — before Barresi terminated the contract in 2011.

“I couldn't get any sense out of this contract of what service this is providing for nearly a quarter-million dollars,” Barresi said.

Teachers-Teachers.com, based in Maryland, maintains a website and online database that allows school districts to post job openings and individuals seeking teaching positions to list their qualifications and preferences related to jobs and locations.

The affidavit former state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett signed justifying award of the contract to Teachers-Teachers.com described it as “the only website in existence that contains a database of over 400,000 teaching job seekers searchable by certification area and degree earned, in addition to location and job preferences.”

Garrett told The Oklahoman she thought the site was particularly valuable in identifying teachers for hard-to-fill positions like special education and science teachers.

Damon Gardenhire, spokesman for the state Education Department, said state officials received no complaints from teachers or principals after the contract was eliminated.

Brett Spodak, president and chief executive officer of Teachers-Teachers.com, donated $2,500 to Garrett's 2006 re-election campaign. He did not return several calls and an email seeking comment.

Other contractors

Another no-bid contractor was the Payne Education Center, an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit organization that trains teachers on how to teach Alphabetic Phonics, a curriculum touted as especially effective in teaching dyslexic children.


by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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