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EACS board barely approves contract

Communications, marketing services deal met opposition

– The East Allen County Schools board approved a contract Tuesday for marketing and communications services, but the approval didn’t come without heated discussion and disagreement among members.

The contract with Fort Wayne-based Brand Innovation Group was approved by a slim majority, with three members – Rick Allgeier, Stephen Terry and Neil Reynolds – dissenting. Those in opposition believed the contract should be brought back to the board when three new board members begin their terms in January.

Member Terry Jo Lightfoot defeated her challenger in the recent election, but longtime incumbent Rick Allgeier was defeated by Arden Hoffman, a resident in the district and engineer with Raytheon. Bob Nelson and Chris Baker also won seats on the board.

Terry said the new members could bring new ideas to the table, particularly Nelson who owns a marketing firm. Member Bill Hartman said he supported moving forward with the contract as recommended by the administration.

“Our brand is our district long before us and long after us,” he said.

Lightfoot agreed, citing negative reports of the district’s communication with the community for the need to move forward quickly.

“The total goal of communication is not going to change with a new member,” she said.

When Reynolds suggested the board speak directly to incoming board members in the audience on the matter, board President Janice Witte said it wasn’t appropriate. When some members disagreed, she said, “I’m the president, and I say it’s not (appropriate).”

The contract is temporary, running until Aug. 30. The contract amount is not to exceed $54,000 for services including planning, messaging, website work, electronic media support and content work.

Superintendent Karyle Green said the company came strongly recommended by other school districts, and it has ties to the EACS community.

“They’re very committed to this district,” she said.

Brand Innovation Group had reached out to her to offer its services, and “it’s just an advantage that they’re from the area,” she said.

According to its website, Brand Innovation has worked with Huntington University, the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission and Junior Achievement of Northeast Indiana, among many other clients.

After the meeting, Nelson said he believed Green had followed the directive given by the board in a prior meeting to look into hiring a consultant to improve communications. But the board’s disagreement and divisiveness is what the public hopes to change by electing three new members, he said.

“What they demonstrated at tonight’s meeting showed what the public is upset with,” he said. “There needs to be a change in how the board reacts … but that doesn’t mean there won’t be discussion or disagreement.”