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Company At Center Of Adams 14 School District Controversy Also Had Failed Contract With School Of Mines

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) — The State Board of Education will decide this Thursday whether or not to dissolve the Adams County 14 School District, after the district's relationship with its state-mandated private management company to fix student performance deteriorated earlier this year. But CBS4 has found Adams 14 is not the only educational system in the metro area to have problems with that company.

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(credit: CBS) CBS

The state school board required Adams 14 to work with MGT Consulting nearly four years ago after the district had consistently low student test scores. This year, Adams 14 fired MGT, saying the company didn't do the work it was paid to do.

Now CBS4 has learned at the same time Adams 14 was having issues with MGT, so was the Colorado School of Mines.

Public documents obtained by CBS4 show School of Mines hired MGT in 2020 to do human resources work. The scope of work included pay equity analysis, job evaluation methodology, and benchmarking of jobs to relevant market data.

The contract was supposed to last for two years, but Mines ended it a year early, in spring 2021, saying the company "failed to meet reasonable expectations and its material obligations."

Mines staff also said MGT delayed work, and the university's HR director wrote in an email to MGT staff, "the level of quality of work... hasn't met my expectations or the standards that I would expect from a mature organization that operates in the higher education industry regularly."
Another Mines staff member wrote in an email to MGT prior to the termination, "we are expecting MGT to apply critical thinking and professional knowledge to create finished products, instead of templates for us to complete."

Emails show MGT staff said the delays were Mines' fault, and they were being wrongly accused.

MGT staff wrote in an email to Mines, "MGT approaches every project as a partnership with open communications; the reluctancy of CSM to provide timely feedback when requested resulted in considerable rework by the MGT team."

Dr. Robert Lundin, Director of Communications for Adams 14, says news of another educational institution having issues with MGT is not surprising.

"It is eerie to look at how similar the pattern was between what happened at Colorado School of Mines and what happened here in Commerce City," Lundin said. "Literally the events mirror each other."

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(credit: CBS)

Lundin added, "we empathize with the Colorado School of Mines… we've been there, we've been through this cycle of promises not being delivered upon."

School of Mines ended up paying MGT $100,000 for the partially-complete contract, instead of the originally agreed-upon $200,000 price tag.

Adams 14 paid MGT nearly $9 million and claims nearly $500,000 of that may have been for duplicate services.

Since Adams 14's relationship with MGT deteriorated, it's up to the state to decide what will happen next, whether the district gets more charter schools, a new management company, or it's dissolved altogether. A hearing on the matter will be held Thursday.

Lundin says they deserve another chance, citing the district currently has turnaround plans and strategies in place to help its majority low-income student population.

"We are establishing community school models both for the district as a whole, and hopefully our elementary school campus, as well, that will include wraparound services that will ensure every student is able to learn because their core needs are being met," Lundin said.

A spokesperson for the state school board and Colorado Department of Education declined to comment about the School of Mines development, but added, "CDE and the State Board of Education are focused on what's happening now in the district and developing a pathway that will lead to dramatic improvements in student outcomes."

The Colorado School of Mines declined an interview, but spokesperson Emilie Rusch offered the following written statement: "Colorado School of Mines entered into a Personal Services Agreement with MGT on August 10, 2020, and provided notice of our intent to terminate the agreement on March 9, 2021. We made our final payment to MGT on or about April 21, 2021."

Regarding its work with Mines, MGT Executive Vice President Eric Parish said, "we stand by the work we completed for the Colorado School of Mines… out of loyalty to our clients and respect for the agreement we reached with the school at the close of our work, we have no further comment."

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Colorado School of Mines (credit: CBS)

Parish also provided the following written statement regarding the upcoming hearing Thursday pertaining to its failed contract with MGT:

"The Adams 14 school board and superintendent have made clear they will use Thursday's State Board of Education hearing to continue their pattern of spreading false information and fighting adult battles. Since her appointment, the first-time superintendent has paid for two bogus "reports" based on incorrect information and unprofessional processes, and she has more than doubled the pay of the district's lawyers so they can lob baseless allegations and accusations. These allegations include proceedings against the State Board, which were soundly dismissed by the Chief Judge of the Denver District Court.

We hope Thursday's meeting sticks to the facts and the conclusions of Colorado Department of Education staff and independent, third-party reviewers. The facts and independent reviews show that during MGT's time in charge, more students graduated from high school, fewer students dropped out, and more staff felt supported. Let's remember what the independent review board said: 'Although district leadership has shown lack of interest and ability to work with a partner, during the site visit, multiple stakeholders – including teachers, school leaders, and some district leaders – stated that Adams 14 made progress under MGT as the managing partner.'

We are proud of our track record in Adams 14, and we reject any adults' agendas to misrepresent our work supporting students and families in Commerce City."

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