The Seattle Times had an editorial this morning (with a few surprisingly good comments) about the recent relevation that SPS seems to have quite a few items missed with some outright stolen.
From the editorial:
"This is a problem of weak inventory control and reporting systems. The district must adopt an attitude that their money is the public's money. Anything less shows breath-taking contempt for anyone who ever voted for a levy to buy school equipment."
This is true no matter what. All the land, the buildings and the equipment in them are the property of the people of Seattle. The district wants to pass the next BTA which does have a number of equipment purchases in it.
And, on the one hand:
"Some of the thefts were not reported to state auditors, as required by law."
On the other hand:
"An internal auditor was hired two years ago to ensure the district complies with state auditing rules. State auditors say they are pleased with the improvements so far."
Great but failure to secure vacant buildings has got to be at the top of the list because then you almost can't even lease them if the wiring is gone (as happen at Viewlands with its copper wiring). Also, how does a John Deere riding lawn mower just vanish?
From the comments (and some of these were already reflected by readers here who commented on Charlie's post on this subject):
"As a retired school employee (not in Seattle) I can vouch for the need for better inventory control. I would bet that a lot of the "missing" equipment is still in the schools being used every day. Teachers are under the gun to teach and when you need something you grab it and ask questions later, if you think about it. Stuff disappears from your radar screen for years and then shows up again when you find out from a student that it was in "Mr. Smith's room" all along.
The main culprit here is time. Teachers simply don't have adequate time to plan for class, let alone be good stewards of the inventory list. Add to that the mounting accountability paperwork and taking care of equipment drops to the bottom of the list."
"Even with an obvious theft it gets weird, witnesses saw a van pickup 6 printers off a loading dock at a CC. Within a few minutes the police were called and caught the guy unloading them at his business. They then held them as evidence for so long that the school had to order replacements - how do those get accounted for.
You can force the schools to buy, install and support the latest in asset tracking systems - which is not cheap - but then you run right into the taxpayers that thinks any money not spent in the classroom teaching is wasted. Time to make up our minds."
Good question. We want buildings maintained. Okay, define "maintained". I can't tell you how many people, both living in neighborhoods and visiting a school for tours, will say they are turned off by lack of "curb appeal". They see things like unmowed lawns, old paint, dying landscapes, old playgrounds. BUT, that's doesn't make it an unsafe building. What's the minimum for a building in use? A mothballed building?
As I mentioned in another post, I'm sure the district would say that the cutbacks to the maintenance budget at SPS was so the money went into the classroom. For what? Was it for new equipment that teachers don't have time to track? And where does the old equipment go? It seemingly needs to be tracked as well. Maybe the old stuff should just get a label once they are not going to be used again anywhere.
I remember at my sons' elementary school, I'd do tours and parents would anxiously ask about computers and availability. I would say, yes, we have a lot of computers and they would nod with relief. However, there is then the issue of having someone who troubleshoots the computers and maintains the server. Without that, the computers are just boxes taking up space. And, when they become obsolete, they have to go somewhere and be tracked.