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Editorial: A 20th century system

Did Buffalo school officials really disqualify Kaleida Health from continuing to provide nurses for students because its bid arrived 16 minutes late – by hand delivery? The email sent on time didn’t count because electronic proposals are not allowed.

What is this, 1968?

Someone call Ernestine the telephone operator – aka comedian Lily Tomlin – and tell her to patch upset parents to whoever made this dubious decision. Get her to ask why district officials would throw out Kaleida Health, which has held the school district’s nursing contract for the last 13 years. Don’t bother staying on the line too long since there is no good answer.

When technology is disrupting virtually every industry and changing the way business is being conducted, why is the district hewing to arcane rules and regulations? News flash: It’s 2018. More email. Less Pony Express.

Sure, rules are rules but what about the part stating “late submissions will be returned unopened.” Kaleida officials said their proposal was opened that day, examined and added to the pile of other bids. Then it took four months before Kaleida received notice that its bid was rejected. The general counsel said the district held on to the late bid in case other bids submitted did not meet requirements. So maybe the strict deadline rule could have been bent in case of emergency?

Kaleida Health was one of three bidders to turn in its proposals late but the one that should have known better. The nonprofit health care organization had the schools contract, as part of a deal negotiated in 2005, after funding for school nurses were eliminated by Erie County.

Kaleida has won the contract with the Buffalo Public Schools three times. Missing the deadline on the district’s outmoded system is, as health care officials admitted, embarrassing. But they said an electronic copy of its proposal was emailed to the district before the deadline. The electronic mode would have been more than sufficient in most organizations.

It raises the question as to whether something else is going on. The school district spends roughly $6.6 million a year to contract with 76 Kaleida nurses. Time runs out on that contract at the end of the school year. District officials expect to recommend one of the other 13 bidders to the Board of Education on May 16.

Some parents are understandably alarmed. They knew that Kaleida nurses who had pediatric training and experience at Oishei Children’s Hospital might be gone. Who will replace them? This is a high-needs population and now the continuity of care is being broken.

Rules are in place for good reason. But if, as some people believe, this was just an excuse to cut expenses, then the kids come out losers.

Too bad for them.

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