Some question why IPS' board needs its own PR consultant when the school district already employs PR/media personnel. A year ago, IPS hired Kristin Cutler as a full-time media relations coordinator for the school system at an annual salary of $57,000. At the same time, it also hired Rhonda Akers as a full-time public relations coordinator earning $69,000 a year. And it hired Kevin Kent as an editorial content coordinator earning $60,000 a year. In the past, the IPS board relied upon IPS employees for its media relations, but that changed in August when the board without a public vote quietly awarded a 7-month contract to Wagner's firm not to exceed $21,000. It used to be IPS board policy to require formal board approval for any contract exceeding $10,000; however, following the 2014 board elections, the newly-sworn in board raised the threshold for board approval to $75,000, the amount required under state law.
Advance Indiana has learned that the IPS board's newly-installed administrator, Zach Mulholland, initiated the hiring of an outside PR consulting firm for the board at the prodding of Kelly Bentley. Mulholland recommended the hiring of Wagner's firm to the board. Mulholland, who once ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for state representative, was hired on at $100,000 a year by the board following the 2014 elections after the new board forced from their administrative positions two long-time board employees, Sharon Alvey and Rene Patton. Alvey resigned her employment with IPS altogether, while Patton was transferred to a job earning less money in IPS' human relations department.
Advance Indiana obtained a copy of Wagner's PR consulting contract, which was signed by the board's president, Diane Arnold, and the board's vice-president, Sam Odle, on August 7, 2015. Its term runs through March 7, 2015. Wagner's services are described to include "general public relations and strategic messaging support to the Board, and such other services as may be reasonably anticipated to fall within the scope thereof." IPS Board President Diane Arnold did not reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the Board's decision to award the contract to Wagner. To the public, Wagner's work seems to consist of attending IPS board meetings and tweeting out comments about the meetings.
A number of IPS families & staff are in support of the expansion of the CFI model in the board meeting tonight— IPS (@IPSSchools) November 9, 2015
Rule #1 of #Indy politics: Let Larry speak.— Jennifer Wagner (@JenniferAWagner) October 27, 2015