Fayette Superintendent Barrow defends turf decision

Dear faculty and staff,

You may be aware of a recent FOX 5 News report regarding the turf fields that are being installed at our high schools.

Sadly, the media outlet has chosen to “make” the news rather than “report” the news. While it is not in the district’s best interest to cater to the metro media market, it is important to us to educate our local media, stakeholders and taxpayers, and the Fayette County School System staff.

A vendor who did not win the bid approached the media to push an agenda that was self-serving, which prompted the story. We are the second metro Atlanta system that has been singled out by this particular vendor with a story airing on FOX 5 News.

The school system has specific bid polices in place that are in compliance with state law, and we are compelled to follow them. While the policies point to the lowest bidder, they also state that the lowest price alone will not be the sole determining criteria in the selection process.

After receiving responses from interested vendors to a request for proposals (RFPs), a comprehensive bid vetting process was conducted by the school system’s finance, facilities, purchasing, and operations staff.

A rubric was developed to help score the submissions. The elements of the proposals were weighted and scored appropriately. Based on those scores, the top vendor candidates proceeded to the next round of vetting, which was to call past customers for recommendations based on quality of service, installation, warranty, response to repairs, etc., in addition to the proposed price.

In speaking to systems that had done business with the highest rated RFPs, some strong concerns about the quality of work of the low bid vendor were found. For example, a neighboring school system indicated that they had numerous issues that required warranty repair work, but they could not get the vendor to make good on the warranted repairs.

During the bid review process, it became clear that the lowest bid was not the best bid. Many times the low bid can turn out to be more expensive in the long run. The review committee felt this was the case with this RFP, and ultimately made the recommendation of the best bid to the superintendent.

After reviewing the process, the superintendent found the review committee’s work to be in line with Fayette County’s Board of Education policies, and made the recommendation to the board to proceed.

All of this process was done transparently. The entire process was shared with the Board of Education during a public meeting, and the board’s vote was unanimous.

The media outlet made a big deal about the school system’s lack of response, when in fact all documents and information requested through the Open Records Request act were supplied. It is standard operational procedure for our district to funnel Open Records Requests through one point of contact, and for the school system it is Public Information Officer, Ms. Melinda Berry-Dreisbach.

At no point, did Ms. Berry-Dreisbach ever refuse or say “no comment.” The footage shown of her is from an unrelated story that another FOX 5 News reporter did earlier in the school year.

Thank you for taking the time to read through the “rest of the story,” and as always your support of the Fayette County Schools is very much appreciated.

Joseph C. Barrow, Jr., Ed.D.

Superintendent, Fayette County Schools

Fayetteville, Ga.