Saturday, November 3, 2018

Actions in two districts hurt schools’ cause

"Government waste and questionable expenditures are bad in times of budget stability but they're especially vexing when finances are strained," The Oklahoman's editorial board points out.
In Tishomingo, an independent audit indicates former Superintendent Kevin Duncan, who left that job in June, used $78,000 in school funds for personal purchases, according to a report from television station KXII. The audit found Duncan misspent school funds on items like cellphones, an iPad, Beats speakers, a laptop, pool salt, a 55-inch TV, lamp shades and barbed wire, and submitted $1,400 in travel reimbursements for a hotel that didn't appear to be a job-related trip. 
Some misspending came to light earlier this year when Duncan's replacement found documents related to the purchases and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation officials searched Duncan's home. The reported findings of the audit, however, suggest the misuse of funds was even greater than initially believed. 
While Duncan is responsible for his own actions, $78,000 in misspent funds represents systemic failure that includes the district's school board. Was anybody minding the store? And if school officials failed to keep track of that much money, one wonders how they can claim recent state funding increases will be better spent?

In 2016, Duncan was one of 20 administrators named District Superintendents of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators. OASA's executive director described the honorees as people who exhibited “strong leadership skills.” One hopes OASA was mistaken in declaring Duncan one of the leading lights of their profession. ...
At Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, officials are not in legal trouble but have provided reason to question their priorities and judgment. 
Television station KTUL reports that Hale High spent $22,000 to send 12 employees, including Principal Sheila Riley, to a four-day conference in Las Vegas that overlapped with the statewide teacher strike. Then the school spent another $15,000 in June to send Riley and three other administrators to another conference in Napa, California. Overall, the school spent $37,000 in “Title I” funds on similar professional development trips last school year.

Riley said the federal money was originally intended to pay to hire a teacher and a paraprofessional. But when the school couldn't find qualified candidates, she said officials had to find other ways to spend the money so the district would qualify for a similar amount of federal funds in future years. 
We don't doubt value can come from professional development programs, but the public is justified in doubting that these rushed expenditures were designed to provide real value to the school. 
When it comes to credibility on spending and financial oversight, the actions of officials in these two Oklahoma districts have done little to help education's cause.

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