March 20, 2017-SMDG,LLC, who some are now calling the “School Money Disappearing Gang”, received contracts which were worth nearly $1M from the Gary Community School Corporation in 2016. The contracts were nearly 15 times the amount paid in 2015 for similar services. The Gazette could find no evidence of a request for proposals or other bidding process in the award of the contracts. Under the terms of the contract, SMDG was to perform social media services and teach a graphics design class as follows:
February 5, 2016-$200,000 contract to provide social media design services from March 1, 2016-August 15, 2016. Contract Purpose: Strategic Planning for Rebranding of the Gary Community School Corporation; Redesign & Management of Districtwide Website & Social Media Communication Strategies; and Development and Implementation of GCSC’s Targeted, Social Media Outreach Initiative for local and national stakeholders
April 12, 2016-$327,500 for Graphics Design Program/Federal Express and Print Station for The Gary Area Career Center. Description: Gary Community School Corporation Signs and Graphics Printing Program Workshop
July 20, 2016-$402,000 contract to provide social media design services from August 1, 2017 through July 30, 2017. Contract Purpose: Strategic Planning for Rebranding of the Gary Community School Corporation; Redesign & Management of Districtwide Website & Social Media Communication Strategies; and Development and Implementation of GCSC’s Targeted, Social Media Outreach Initiative for local and national stakeholders
Each of the contracts was recommended for approval by Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and signed by Superintendent Pruitt as well as then Board President Antuwan Clemons, Board Secretary Doretha Rouse and GCSC Corporation Counsel Robert Lewis. The funding source for at least two of the contracts was listed as “Title I.” Title I are federal funds to be used for ” Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged” according to the United States Department of Education. The US Department of Education goes on to state “Title I is designed to help students served by the program to achieve proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards.”
Now Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington, who attends school board meetings and is familiar with GCSC activities, has stated that the State of Indiana has ruled that GCSC cannot spend Title I funds on social media. On his WLTH radio show with Gary Council Member LaVetta Sparks-Wade, Councilman Washington stated “the State stepped in and said you cannot pay for SMDG with Title I money.” The reference was to an unconfirmed report that $300,000 of the $929,500 to be paid to SMDG was not paid. Clearly, SMDG was paid over $500,000 for social media and social media classes in 2016.
SMDG has quickly become the “preferred” vendor for local government agencies. The failed Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority recently paid SMDG $9,600.00 of YOUR money to produce a 5 minute video on Transit Oriented Development. (SMDG-NWI RDA-Video Proposal 09112015 ) The City of Gary utilizes SMDG to maintain all of their websites and to produce their weekly newsletter. One Region connected NIPSCO and Lake Area United Way have both hired SMDG according to the Companies website.
Officials from SMDG were unavailable for comment for this article. The Gazette placed several calls to the published telephone number for SMDG during regular business hours but no one answered.
What is the relationship between SMDG and Laughing Right Productions? We hope to have that answer for you soon.