First, I would like to explain that I have been delayed in communicating to you about the AdvancED/SACS report because I have been out of the country since December 15th. I returned this past Saturday evening (December 22nd). While I was away I had limited access to the Internet, email and phone. I had time to quietly reflect on my (almost) two years of service on the board and the AdvancED/SACS Report. I’m writing to you now in the first of a series of blog posts I have written and plan to post over the next several days. The opinions I express here are mine alone and I express them as an individual citizen.
No one knows better than I do, that the board as a whole can be very frustrating to watch. As the board member who most often votes “no”, I endure this frustration more than most. I am the board member who identified and publically discussed the financial issues that were cited in this report. For almost two years, I have publically inquired during the presentation of the monthly financial report about the discrepancies that I uncovered. My public statements at board meetings span two administrations. I have written that it appears to me that our budgets for the past six years were, at best, a weak suggestion of how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception. I received support for my analysis from only Don McChesney and Pam Speaks. I was publically misled by administration officials who stated at board meetings that our budgeting issues with electricity (one of the many areas I cited as problematic) were due to (1) unseasonably hot/cold summers/winters and (2) increases in electricity rates. These statements were demonstrably false.
No agency, government department or official was interested in my findings. Eventually I posted them on my website (here’s the link to my September 13th entry: http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2012/09/13/5-year-budget-analysis/ ). My public statements at Board meetings go back to almost the beginning of my service.
Additionally, I discovered that “general administration salaries” have been the only salary category that has increased over six years; including the current budget. I inquired into this matter at two board meetings but did not receive a response. Here is the link t0 my analysis: http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2012/11/16/salary-analysis-fy2008-fy2013/.
While I’m flattered by AdvancED’s extensive use of my research and statements; their conclusions, required actions, indeed, their paradigm for “team governance” would prevent me or any other board member from discovering and properly alerting the public to these misdeeds (see required action #5).
The report also states, “The board members’ questions to the staff displayed a suspicion and lack of trust for any information provided by the staff.” As I stated above, I have been misled and stonewalled when uncovering some of the very financial malfeasance that AdvancED now has decided to recognize. Suspicion and lack of trust, at this point, is clearly justified as I and my fellow board members are legally accountable as stewards of tax dollars.
I’m also curious as to why, with all of their teams of professional educational bureaucrats visiting and researching DSCD (at our expense), AdvancED never discovered the financial malfeasance that I brought to light. I’m just one mom with a calculator. Given the record of misleading statements and nonresponsive behavior I have dealt with from administrators around the financial issues that AdvancED has now chosen to present as evidence to warrant placing DeKalb on probation, it seems odd that they would then simultaneously hold the position that Board members just need to be less suspicious and more trusting of staff members.
If I were an employee, I would most likely be protected under whistleblower laws. How ironic that I may be removed from office exactly because I discovered and made public the financial misdeeds of the third largest school district in our state. What message does this send to board members around the state or to future board members in DeKalb? Given that the majority of our state budget goes to education, I would think that the state would incentivize and welcome local board members to be watchdogs over these finite resources. To do otherwise is to steal from the educational lives of children.
Stay tuned – tomorrow, I’ll post my thoughts on the education bureaucrats’ construct of “the governance team” and what that means for your children and tax dollars.