Alpine School District (ASD) Superintendent Shane Farnsworth announced in Sept. that the district administration had selected MGT Education, a consulting firm out of Tampa, Florida, to conduct the district’s reconfiguration study.
“We like that they are out of state to give an unbiased opinion,” said Farnsworth, who noted the firm’s selection process was conducted by teachers, classified staff, administrators and parents.
Companies from around the country presented to the selection committee, offering proposals for the reconfiguration study. Ultimately, MGT won the contract due to their extensive experience with public education and numerous references from past clients, said Farnsworth.
MGT Consulting comes with a significant pedigree, but not without controversy. The company has been involved in a federal ethics investigation after being accused of steering government contracts, as the head of MGT is a former Florida lawmaker. The company also recently settled a $1.5 million lawsuit with a Colorado school district that accused the consulting firm of misusing taxpayer dollars and not improving student results. MGT denies the accusations.
ASD will be paying MGT a flat rate of $200,076 to conduct the study. According to the contract, MGT is to begin with data collection from varying stakeholders to target the highest level of accuracy and reliability:
Using robust data obtained from various reliable sources including the school district, the Utah State Board of Education, the State of Utah, local cities and counties, taxing authorities such as the Utah Taxpayer Association, and other relevant entities.
The contract also states the main objective of the study is to assess the viability, benefits, challenges and potential implications of reconfiguring the Alpine School District. The study will provide the following comprehensive analyses:
– Comprehensive information gathering: Collect relevant data regarding the current district boundaries, demographics, enrollment trends, student distribution, resource allocation, school capacitiesand transportation.
–Evaluation of financial implications: Assess the financial implications of the proposed changes, including the budgetary impact, tax base distribution, funding mechanisms, potential cost and savings associated with a split.
–Analysis of educational equity: Evaluate the potential impact of the proposed changes on educational equity, including access to educational resources, programs, facilities, extracurricular activities and the potential distribution of disadvantaged or marginalized student populations.
–Examine the educational needs and infrastructure requirements of each proposed district: Consider factors such as school capacity, facility conditions, transportation and technology infrastructure.
–Legal and administrative considerations: Identify and analyze any legal, regulatory or administrative challenges that may arise during the process of splitting the school district.
–Stakeholder engagement: Engage with stakeholders, including teachers, school administrators, local city and county officials and representative organizations to gather their perspectives, concerns and input on the potential split.
–Final comprehensive report summarizing the study findings, recommendations, and a detailed analysis.
The contract also requires that MGT analyze Utah Code 20A-14-201 which currently dictates how a school district can be split as there are three paths for including a district plan on the general election ballot: a county, city or citizen’s initiative.
Given the current Utah statute regarding splitting districts, several bills will be filed in the upcoming Utah State Legislative Session, including a proposal to allow a district to send a split to the ballot. Other bills may be filed to change state law to permit cities like Lehi to form a citywide district, which is not currently allowed due to geographical restrictions of creating an “island” district.
The MGT study is just getting started as they begin stakeholder engagement with school leaders, elected officials and community influencers. The process will include feedback and input from the entire community over the next several months as well as periodic updates in public board meetings. It is important to note that the study will not advocate for or against reconfiguration, but rather present to the ASD board and public at large insights into various options for the future.