CHS Stage Update: ‘Convoluted Procurement' Process Could Delay Quick Fix

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On Tuesday afternoon, March 12, South Orange-Maplewood Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kevin Gilbert met with a group of parents who offered their professional expertise and connections to help secure the Columbia High School stage. The stage was declared unsafe on January 23 due to issues with the rigging, forcing the relocation of the high school musical to Maplewood Middle School.

The parents, many of whom volunteer for the musical and are professionals in stage and event production, hoped to expedite the return of various other high school activities, such as the upcoming Special Dance performances, to the stage this year.

Matt Glass, speaking on behalf of the parents, said that the meeting was productive, but that the issue was complicated by legal requirements guiding the district in awarding contracts.

Glass sent the following update to HistoryNusantara via email following the meeting:

We did meet on Tuesday afternoon with Dr. Gilbert and three of his staff. We appreciated the fact that he kept the meeting considering everything else that’s going on in his world. With me were several parents who are professionals in the theater, lighting and rigging worlds, primarily in NYC, and the co-president of the Columbia HSA. We all agreed that the safety of the students was the #1 priority and that the district could not take any chances with making sure the stage is safe. We gave the district team a broad overview of what we feel is needed to be accomplished in the short term. We also told them that people have already offered significant financial support (Achieve has offered $30,000). Dr. Gilbert asked us to provide him and his team a detailed work order and supply list that they could get to a vendor, and the team quickly pulled it together yesterday.  I emailed the documents to Dr. Gilbert and cc’d his team [Thursday] morning [March 14]. He responded quickly thanking me for our quick work and said he’d be in touch.

Overall, it was a good meeting and I feel like we were heard. I think the biggest challenge is that the district is restricted in what companies it can work with to get this job done. Over a certain financial threshold it must, by law, be bid out to multiple companies. That process can take months. But if the company is part of an existing co-op, then there doesn’t need to be an open bid. So I believe they will look to the company that has already given them an extremely high quote for doing the necessary work.

I do think that Dr. Gilbert wants to get kids back on that stage and wants our help to do that. I just don’t know if the convoluted procurement system will allow all of us to get it done in time.

SOMSD Director of Communications Paul Brubaker sent HistoryNusantara a statement regarding the meeting. It reads as follows:

Dr. Gilbert held an informative meeting with parents and key members of the District administration. The exchange of ideas was friendly, spirited, and robust. No commitments have been made yet as information gathering is still underway, but it is clear that everyone wants the Columbia High School stage to reopen as safely as possible.

HistoryNusantara will continue to follow this story.


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