Been There, Done That

As San Francisco's Board of Education chooses a headhunting firm to find a replacement for acting Schools Superintendent Gwen Chan, its members should ensure that the firm knows the latest in digital search technology — such as Google.

It seems apparent that American school district officials haven't heard of search engines like Google. Look, for instance, at how they keep hiring and contracting with the bureaucratic dregs from a 2000 school software-purchasing debacle in this city.

Had officials in Dallas and Detroit, for example, taken the time to do a little online sleuthing before hiring top schools officials, they might have avoided facing allegations of cozy dealings between software companies and bureaucrats, as recently published in the Dallas Morning News. Turns out, the same central players in unfolding scandals in those towns played center stage in a November 2000 SF Weeklyexposé on a similar multimillion-dollar fiasco in S.F.

A decade ago, S.F. Unified School District CFO William Coleman oversaw the purchase and implementation of a PeopleSoft software package that didn't work as the company promised, even after massive cost overruns. Early on, Coleman hired a consultant, Ruben Bohuchot, to help manage that implementation. After five years, the district had spent $5 million on a system that failed thanks to a "muddled, conflicting leadership, and indifferent, unquestioning oversight," SF Weekly's Jeremy Mullman wrote.

Fast forward to October 2006, when the Dallas Morning News revisited the careers of the same two bureaucrats, who'd gone on to work for school districts in Dallas and Detroit. In Michigan, officials with two software companies eyeing a piece of the school district pie told the Morning News that Bohuchot had linked up with a firm hoping to provide services to Detroit schools. Bohuchot then touted his ties to a fishing buddy, Detroit Schools Superintendent William Coleman, even as he vied for $11.6 million in software consulting work. Sound familiar?

Back in 2000, S.F. School Board member Jill Wynns was one of the strongest critics of former Superintendent Bill Rojas, who had brought Bohuchot and Coleman to S.F., and then brought them with him to Dallas when he became superintendent there in 1999. In 2000, Wynns told SF Weeklythat Coleman hadn't disclosed the true costs of the PeopleSoft package.

Now she's glad the Rojas episode is behind her. "I have my suspicions about what may have happened during the Rojas time, when he was here," Wynn said. "But we've done everything humanly possible to fix the improprieties."

Other school districts might avoid such expensive software-related improprieties by using a program that's free: www.sfweekly.com/search.

 
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