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District sets eye on grant

Administrators will take another shot at $3.5 million to go toward technological upgrades at schools.

October 03, 2007|By Rachel Kane

BURBANK — Burbank Unified School District administrators will reapply for $3.5 million in federal funding this year after declining the grant last summer because of a faulty application process, officials said.

The funding would have come from e-Rate, a federally funded reimbursement for the installation of Internet and phone systems at school facilities.

District officials declined the money after discovering they had not properly advertised for competitive bids on the work, said Jeff Marderosian, the district’s attorney.

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The project should have begun last summer, but district officials realized the misstep and declined the funding, Marderosian said.

Before applying for the funds, the district should have included an open bidding process with advertisements of the available work, Supt. Gregory Bowman said.

At least two competitive bids for the work should have been taken into consideration, Bowman said. Instead, the district accepted a bid from one company, Checkpoint Communications, through a piggyback application process with the Glendale Unified School District. Burbank Unified used the bid Glendale received for its own applications.

“It’s kind of an abbreviated way of getting bids, but you don’t go through formal advertising for bids when you do that,” Marderosian said. “In many instances it’s lawful. In some instances it’s not.

Glendale Unified had more than one bidder, Marderosian said. “I think at the time the district believed that was OK,” he added. “I think that upon a closer examination from myself and the consultants we decided, no, that’s not OK, and you’re exposing yourself to potentially having to give back the money in an audit.”

The district’s project included installing new cabling, television systems, network equipment and the installation of video-on-demand systems at eight schools.

Technological upgrades at George Washington, William McKinley, Walt Disney, Joaquin Miller and Providencia elementary schools as well as the Community Day School, Monterey High School and Burbank Luther Middle School have been postponed until July 1, pending approval of the district’s reapplication for e-Rate funds, said Rick Vonk, technology services manager for the district.

Parents at Providencia Elementary School were particularly upset by the postponement of cabling work at their children’s school.

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