Friday, March 19, 2010

Times Editorial on the Native American Spending Issue

The Times' editorial board weighed in this morning on the Native American overfunding issue. (I was wondering when the Times might cover this.) This has been going on longer than we thought.

The district seems unable to follow federal and state guidelines. The problem with the program was discovered in 2007 when the federal Department of Education audited their Title VII grant, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrepancies in Seattle's program were brought to the district's attention, including the lack of a Native American parent-advisory council, a requirement of the grant.

The district also did not, and still does not, have a system to verify students claiming membership in a federally recognized tribe.

Washington state auditors, aware of the federal audit's findings, turned recently to the Seattle schools to see if it had complied with the federal audit's requests. It had not. An upcoming state audit report is expected to underscore continued weaknesses in the district's fiscal-accountability efforts.

This is it in nutshell:

"This accounting blunder underscores the system's losing battle for complete fiscal integrity."

Here's what I had to say:

I like to think I broke this story - I'm a blogger for Save Seattle Schools and was the first to write about this.

We live in a state with many tribes and many Native American students have been part of SPS for a long time and yet our district, despite any number of audits, still can't get that program right.

People need to read the Moss-Adams review that was conducted after the overspending debacle in the early '90s. They went thru every department and gave tasks that the district needed to do, in order of priority, to right itself. It's a blueprint basically. But at the end they say (and I paraphrase) - if you do not change the culture of a bureaucracy, you will change nothing.

And that's what we have at Seattle Public School. A culture of semi-professionalism (there are some good people working at SPS especially teachers and principals), lack of oversight, lack of common sense, etc. We will never get our footing if this culture doesn't change.

Here's what Michael DeBell, School Board President, had to say on this issue at Wednesday's Board meeting. He said that they are in the processing of figuring out the non-compliance for Native American Students. (He also complimented Director Carr for meeting with some Native American parents.) He said now they are on a path to compliance. He said that the Native American community had NO fault in this (his emphasis) and that it was SPS staff who did this.

Okay, but a couple of questions. One, where did all the money go? If they collected (and presumably spent) fed money for over 900 students but only had under 400, what was the money spent on?

Two, at the Board Committee meeting where this action was revealed, President DeBell asked who was responsible. Well, the person who had the job is now gone, according to Duggan Harman, an SPS staff member. Surely that person had a boss, who is that? Is anyone being held accountable? Don't think so as Director DeBell let it drop.

Across the bottom of every single piece of SPS page is this phrase, "Every student achieving, everyone accountable."

Don't you believe that for a second. Accountability in SPS is truly just a word.

5 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Mr. Mas,

Thanks for the paraphrasing:

"But at the end they say (and I paraphrase) - if you do not change the culture of a bureaucracy, you will change nothing."

Yup I am now in year four of attempting to fix one thing and since my retirement it has become a more than 40 hour a week unpaid job.

Net result even after a successful appeal of arbitrary & capricious behavior is NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

So given the Superintendent's track record should not the School Board be firing her with cause? As in no buyout just bye-bye.

Oh wait there are four directors who approved a contract that wasn't there and the same four directors backed MGJ in appealing an order of remand that would have required the Directors to remake a decision using all the evidence, a decision in which they excluded evidence in making their original decision.

Humm.... maybe that accountability for all just will not fly with these four directors.

Hey do you suppose the Problem is with the current SPS governance model that director Sundquist prefers..... you know the one where the directors abdicate lots of responsibilities to the Superintendent. Then the Superintendent and the board are held accountable for nothing.

....ummmm... little woder the public is less than thrilled with this governance model and yet Director Sudquist enthusiastically supports it.

Go figure .. yup lets go figure ...

Go figure a way for the public to get out of this incomprehensibly corrupt pickle, we are seemingly stuck in. Stuck until Fall 2011, unless resourceful individuals have a better idea than Bureaucrats' near absolute power and unencumbered rule over all.

Me I'll pretty much prefer NOT to stick with path toward the absolute power of Oligarchical Rulers. I'd kinda like ta try that republic model one more time.

A good start will be an order of mandamus with the WA Supreme Court involving among other things RCW 28A 645.020 but that would require the SPS to actually accept paper delivered to them..... Right Mr. Ikeda?

Sahila said...

Professional servers, Dan at however many dollars a pop... its the only way....

Charlie Mas said...

The Times story wasn't funny until it got to the punchline:
"The School Board must find out what is holding the district back and push aggressively for improvements."
HAHAHAHAHAHA!

As if the School Board either could or would do anything about anything.

Josh Hayes said...

Hey, I'm willing to stalk SPS staff and hand them paper. Maybe we could get a whole raft of volunteer servers, like in the Thomas Crown Affair -- we could all wear matching clothes and march into the JSC en masse.... tremble before our bowlers!

Michael said...

The staff member's supervisor? None other than the idiotic Caprice Hollins (who is also gone now).