The state Board of Education approved the first of several information technology contracts last week that are part of an $88 million emergency spending package with federal COVID-19 relief funds.
The $13.7 million information technology consulting contract with Guidesoft Inc. of Indianapolis will employ 25 IT positions, with 17 of them of currently included in the company’s existing contract with the state Department of Education and eight of them new.
Felicia Gavin, the Mississippi Department of Education’s chief of operations, told the board on November 12 that the contract was a consolidation of several existing contracts, with much of the new funds directed at replacement of the state’s Mississippi Student Information System.
Other parts of the $88 million procurement with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds will include a new school security system and learning aids for students.
In fiscal 2022, state agencies have spent more than $6.5 million in IT services from Guidesoft, with more than $401,000 spent with the company by MDE. The biggest spender with Guidesoft was the Department of Human Services ($2.4 million), followed by the Department of Finance and Administration ($1.4 million).
Guidesoft has a long-term master consulting contract for IT services with Information Technology Services, the state’s IT agency.
The contract’s term — which was extended by three years thanks to a vote from the ITS Board in September — will run from November 2021 to September 2024.
One-year contracts are required for ITS-related procurements, but the ITS board can waive these requirements, giving MDE the right to provide vendors with three-year contracts as required by federal regulations for the pandemic relief funds.
The MDE says it needs the emergency declaration (that was approved by the state Board of Education in September) because undertaking a competitive procurement process could cause a life- or property-threatening delay.
The emergency declaration will help MDE officials meet deadlines to spend the federal money, which was appropriated by the Legislature last March.
Regulations require contracts to be awarded by January 2022 for the first round of funds and March 2022 for the second round. The department also must show federal officials that the funds are obligated through September 30, 2023 (first batch) and September 30, 2024 (second batch), which requires an extended contract.
These federal funds are a 9.5 percent holdback by the MDE from $2.5 billion from the ESSER Fund provided by the federal government that was disbursed to school districts for COVID-related expenses such as distance learning. Most of these funds were issued directly to districts.