Florida Department Of Education Terminates $20 Million Contract To Develop Website Intended To Help Students Meet New Standards

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CEDRIC SIMON - Koerbele high school students use a computer software recreating an imaginary city, on
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CEDRIC SIMON - Koerbele high school students use a computer software recreating an imaginary city, on October 10, 2012, in Selestat, eastern France. AFP PHOTO/FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Florida’s Department of Education has terminated its $20 million contract with Infinity Software Development, a Tallahassee technology company it hired to develop a website that would provide practice lessons and tests for the state’s new academic standards that will be phased in for math, English, science and civics over the next two years.

The Associated Press reports that state education officials warned Infinity in early October that it was six months behind schedule in building the website. Letters sent to the company by the department also claim Infinity did not produce acceptable lessons and tests in subjects like math, civics and biology, citing one example in which employees used the phrase "pursuit of happiness" to discuss the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Jon Taylor, president of Infinity, disputed this claim in a letter sent back to the state.

The contract termination comes on the heels of Infinity filing its own lawsuit last week against the state, claiming the agency had violated their contract, CBS Miami reports.

The state agreed to hire Infinity in July 2011 after initially choosing Microsoft to design and build the website. However, the contract was not finalized and signed until December.

In its lawsuit against interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Infinity claims the delay in awarding the contract reduced the time available to complete work on the website by 10 months, and thus required the state to meet strict deadlines in order to keep the project on schedule. However, due to the state failing to review Infinity’s work in a timely manner or signing off on its progress, the company has been unable to complete the project, according to the suit.

Taylor says attempts were made to settle the dispute before heading to court, the AP reports. In a letter sent to state officials in September, Infinity asked for a payment of at least $3.23 million to cover completed work. It went on to say that if lost profits were accounted for Infinity was owed a total of $4.5 million.

The letter that terminated the contract implies the state plans to rebid the contract, which could take months, according to the AP. A spokeswoman for Florida’s Education Department said the state is committed to completing the website.

Florida has already spent $2.5 million on the project — money that is coming from the federal Race to the Top grant the state received.



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