Brunswick schools out almost $6,000 after contractor disappears

Posted Nov. 15, 2012, at 11:03 a.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The School Department is out more than $5,600 after the company it hired to manage substitute teachers apparently disappeared.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski on Wednesday said he has been unable to reach anyone at Syracuse, N.Y.-based Central Xchange, which provided an online service called Sub-IT to match schools with qualified substitute teachers.

“Back in September … they said ‘we’re having some problems, it’s going to take us a little while to fix it,’” Perzanoski told the school board. “To make a long story short, after two weeks of trying to email and call the company, we ended up calling the original number and it ended up being a car wash business in Los Angeles.”

A phone call Thursday morning to the number listed on Central Xchange’s website went to an automated message system for New England Car Wash Equipment, based in Acton, Mass.

Another call, to the office manager of State Tower Associates of Syracuse, owner of the building listed as the address for Central Xchange, revealed that the company moved out of its office several years ago.

“They’ve been gone for quite a while,” Gloria Allain said. She did not know where Central Xchange went.

Officials at other school departments that have used Central Xchange’s Sub-IT program, as listed on the company’s website, were not available for comment. Kevin Burns, a Nottingham High School vice principal whose testimonial is quoted on the Central Xchange website, is no longer employed at that Syracuse school.

Perzanoski said he presumed the company is out of business, so the department interviewed three other companies and has hired a new service to manage substitutes.

The department ended up with CRS Adanced Technology of Montoursville, Pa., which provides a substitute teacher management program called SubFinder.

Perzanoski said the department has already paid CRS nearly $4,600 for start-up fees, and it would pay a total of $9,800 for the first school year. The annual fee following that would then be $5,800.

The service will take a few weeks to start, Perzanoski said. In the meantime, teachers and administrators are picking up the slack for calling substitutes.

Perzanoski on Wednesday told the School Board that Central Xchange had been paid about $4,000 for the current school year. In an interview Thursday he revised the cost to more than $5,600. He said this was the fifth year the department had worked with the company.

“We haven’t had a problem with them until now,” Perzanoski said.

Board Member Matt Corey on Wednesday asked if it would be worthwhile for the School Department to seek legal action against Central Xchange.

“I’m still looking for them,” Perzanoski replied.

In other business:

• Business Manager Jim Oikle said the School Department has passed its annual budget audit. Oikle said the 2012-2013 school budget surplus is around $2.4 million right now, and that will carry over into the next fiscal year.

Board Chairman Jim Grant asked Oikle to clarify why that will happen based on a question from the public.

“Someone came out and said ‘they have $2.4 million, why aren’t they doing anything with it?’” Oikle said. “Well, we didn’t know we had $2.4 million for real until [the auditors] were done with it.”

“That [amount] now is available for the board to apply the amount to the next budget that we write,” he continued. “It would be futile to try and go back and amend this year’s budget, because really, we would be doing nothing. The tax rates have already been set. It would just be moving it from one pot of money in the town to another pot of money in the town.”

• Brunswick Dragons hoodies for sale at the local Walmart may soon become a possibility if the School Board agrees to license the high school’s name and logo to an Arkansas-based wholesale manufacturer for apparel sales.

The proposed contract was introduced by Athletic Director Gene Keene, who said PEL Industries has signed similar deals with schools across the country.

According to a letter from PEL, the contract would be a nonexclusive license that would return eight percent of all merchandise revenue to the school. The School Board would only have to agree to the contract for manufacturing to begin.

The manufacturer would then distribute the apparel at the Walmart on Tibbetts Drive.

Board Member Rich Ellis wondered if the sales would have a negative effect on students who sell their own goods for fundraisers.

Board Vice Chairwoman Corinne Perreault said she supports the idea because now only student athletes have access to school-themed apparel.

The board voted unanimously to look further into the contract, with Councilor Michele Joyce absent.

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