The Deets: Why Did the Minneapolis Public Schools Waste $15k With Don Allen?

Sheila Regan’s two part series on the Minneapolis Public Schools contract procedures, and their strange choice to do business with Don Allen, brought out some interesting nuggets.

For one, it mentioned that the work Don Allen was paid $15k for is now available online. Here is video #1:

and video #2:

Personally, I think these videos are HORRIBLE. On the plus side, hardly anyone has seen these videos. As Regan’s reporting mentions, the first video had a whopping 18 views after 6 weeks on the Minneapolis Public Schools YouTube channel.

It also looks like the MPS did their own video production work to try to save these things. Is it just me, or does the sensible 30 seconds at the end of the video with Rachel Hicks seem like it was stitched on to make up for the first 30 seconds?

When word came out that Don Allen received this contract, I wrote about that and asked these questions:

Frankly, I’d love to know more about how the Minneapolis Public Schools entered into a contract with Don Allen in the first place. With so many talented and trustful residents in the City of Minneapolis, what made the Minneapolis Schools decide that Don Allen was the right person to hire for video production work? How did they decide upon the contract’s value? How do they measure success? Where will Poopgate take us next? So many questions.

That was in February, when Sheila Regan started investigating this topic for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. It took her more than 4 months to get answers to some – but not all – of those questions. For example, it’s still not explicitly clear who authorized this contract with Don Allen. Although, I could fashion a guess at this point: Foot Dragging Dan Loewenson.

Why Dan Loewenson?

Sheila’s report mentions that when Don Allen first proposed this project to the school district, it got as far as a consent agenda, but was then pulled. In general, items on consent agendas are approved without much debate, but a school board member familiar with Allen raised a red flag:

While Chris Stewart was serving on the Minneapolis Board of Education in 2010, he saw that Don Allen was under consideration to receive an MPS contract for a publicity campaign promoting MPS as a great place to enroll students. For Stewart, there was no question that the contract should not go forward. During his last month as a school board member, Stewart tried to find out why the contract was even considered, and worked to have it pulled from the consent agenda.

After Stewart left the board, Don Allen’s contract reemerged, only this time the contract was added to the consent agenda under the vendor name DWRA2.

Stewart also mentions to Regan that Loewenson is the guy who controls what appears on the consent agenda:

As far as Stewart knows, Dan Loewenson, currently the MPS Chief of Staff, was the only person who put items on the consent agenda.

To me, it sure looks like Dan Loewenson figured out a way to trick the school board into approving a $15,000 contract with Don Allen. This would also help explain why Dan Loewenson has been such a foot dragger when it comes to honoring data practices requests from reporters covering this topic.

It looks like Sheila Regan wasn’t able to get a copy of the actual contract the MPS awarded to Allen. I’d like to know who’s signature is on it.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/14/2011 - 10:16 am.

    For the casual reader some bio info on who is Don allen would be helpful

  2. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 07/14/2011 - 12:49 pm.

    Hi Dan. The two links in the first paragraph should help for background.

  3. Submitted by Bert Perry on 07/14/2011 - 02:08 pm.

    This wouldn’t be the first time they’ve thrown money down the toilet–one great example about 1000 times worse was when they bought out Fourth Baptist Church (I used to be a member) and only then found out that renovation/etc.. would be incredibly expensive. Then, of course, they decided to close a bunch of schools, revealing that it was not necessary to begin with.

    Fourth Baptist appreciated the help in buying a new building, but I’m afraid it wasn’t a terribly good idea for the school district.

  4. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 07/15/2011 - 05:54 am.

    After working in education for most of my life, I retired in Minneapolis. After moving here I called the district office to inquire about a golden age pass in 2008, which would allow me to attend sporting events free of charge, only to be told that the district does not have that policy.
    In all previous school districts in which I have worked, a golden age pass for seniors has been the norm. By getting seniors into schools this age group will be open to bond and levy referendums. In addition, seniors will be more likely to volunteer in schools and build relationships with students, which is of benefit to both age groups.
    In my opinion, the administration in the city public schools has a poor public relations record.

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