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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Seattle Times continues to lower their Standards

 Update:  a reader asked about who pays for these audits and I mistakenly said the SAO.  It turns out that the Legislature had passed a law for a hotline but had not funded it.  For the first year, the SAO ate the cost  for hotline investigations but could not sustain that cost.  So if the State Auditor chooses to go forward with hotline requests (and I'm sure they don't follow-thru with all of them), it costs the district $83.60 per hour.  (I just removed that "number of hours" as that is for the NEXT audit, not this special one.)

On the one hand you could say, "Well, look at that money and the SAO found nothing illegal."  On the other hand, you can look at this sad and sorry mess of a process and say that it sure doesn't look good or smell good.  I'll have more to report on this after I read the SAO work product documents which I believe will make compelling reading. 

End of update

A new low for reporting is the Times' article about the MLK, Jr. building sale.

Oh, you can certainly say they reported the "facts" of the State Auditor report.  That is absolutely true.  But boy, did they use some charged wording and leave out a whole lotta the report.   The closest they get is this:

The audit also documented those efforts, while finding them to be within rules.  The Times story described how the district bent over backward to get the empty school into the hands of well-connected First AME. 

They completely left out the bulk of the report which is the timeline and background.  They left out the legislators involved.  They left out that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson overrode the selection committee's recommendation.

Unbelievable.  This is accurate and objective reporting?  Or does the Times need to protect some people?  I note that this article was not written by the new Times ed reporter. 

In his own whopper, Director DeBell said,

In a statement Monday, School Board Michael DeBell said, "The auditor confirms that we had an open, public process and the board handled the sale of this school appropriately."

Michael, I'm not sure with all the back-room dealing going on that you can truly say it was an "open" process.  It may have been open to any bidder but clearly a couple of them got extra chances and got propped up by some state legislators.

9 comments:

Michael H said...

"The audit also documented those efforts, while finding them to be within rules. The Times story described how the district bent over backward to get the empty school into the hands of well-connected First AME."

Even that part is not close to the truth. The story the Times wrote in June says it was all slanted towards AME, but the report says differently,and documents that the legislators wanted a community group and even "told" the district that they had to reopen the bids to allow a CADA to bid (does anyone know anything about CADA?). If anything, it sounds like MGJ wanted it to go to AME, not Ron English or Holly (they supposedly recommended that it go to Bush as the highest bidder).

Charlie Mas said...

It is kinda ironic that the legislators who meddled in this business did so to steer to property to CADA but the AME ended up using the funding they provided.

Makes the legislators appear not only crooked but incompetent.

joanna said...

I am not so sure it was to steer the money to CADA. Remember CADA was not involved when legislaturers came up with the first pot of money and took cerdit for doing so. I think that they want to steer the additional funds somewhere but found themselves having to advocate to reopen the process to others if they were going to come in at the last minute with new funds. That sort of changed the rules, and they didn't want CADA trying to stop the whole process. I'm sure that when CADA heard about the additional funds they thought that was enough to help them do a project. However, I think it likely that the understanding on the part of most involved that the project and any funding was to be steered to AME, and the Superintendent made sure that happened. Look at how many times they asked them to resubmit bids.

The whole story is disheartening. The worst part is the rush and willingness to sell schools at all.

Anonymous said...

"The audit, sparked by citizen complaints to a hotline"

Who had to pay for the auditors time on this? Did they eat it or billed the District. If the latter, I'm concerned that citizen complaints are eating away at the District's resources for I assume this audit cost a bundle.

Does anyone know?

A friend of Seattle

Anonymous said...

Sounds like DeBelle delivered the talking point appropriately.

Mr. Ed

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have a call in to some of the legislators involved. Let's see what they say.

Yes, it was a couple of citizens calling the hotline and I was one of them. The State Auditor is funded through the state. The district doesn't pay anything for audits done on its operations.

If we did not have a State Auditor, a LOT of issues would not see daylight, no less find correction. The assumption that every court filing, every complaint is frivolous is wrong.

Inga said...

I cancelled my subscription to the Times a year or so ago in protest to several editorials that were uninformed, at best. When you are an expert on a certain subject, like you (Melissa and Charlie) are regarding education, and you read articles that the Times publishes, it's easy to see that they often do not do their homework.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa 8:42am

I did some digging..Page 26 on the Auditors annual report (http://www.sao.wa.gov/EN/Reports/Documents/2010_Annual_Report.pdf) shows that Districts are billed for audits. Although, I recall in an article several years ago that performance audits were funded by our sales tax. Perhaps, like most government agencies, the State Auditors Office collects income from different sources.

In looking at the District's budget narrative
(http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/budget/rbook12.pdf?sessionid=3f7257484fcb763f94e764f596b5ed41)on page 282, there is a line item with Activity 11 Board of Directors for $283,000. I thought that was paid to the State Auditors. Is it not? That's a lot of money! Dang, I want to be an auditor!

I agree with you that "the assumption that every court filing, every complaint is frivolous is wrong." Yes, that assumption is wrong; however, some complaints are indeed frivolous.

I'm not blaming anyone, just pointing out that well intended actions sometime has the same affect as poor decisions: they take money from educating our kids.

A friend of Seattle

dan dempsey said...

Oh yea ... baby

In his own whopper, Director DeBell said,

In a statement Monday, School Board Michael DeBell said, "The auditor confirms that we had an open, public process and the board handled the sale of this school appropriately."

Michael, I'm not sure with all the back-room dealing going on that you can truly say it was an "open" process. It may have been open to any bidder but clearly a couple of them got extra chances and got propped up by some state legislators.


==============

I can hardly wait for the Teach for America talking points ... Will Director DeBell be delivering them?

So let us have some Director begin with ... When that careful review of all options for closing the achievement gaps took place. ....

Then how about a good explanation of What the PESB executive director meant on Dec 11, 2009 in writing:
-----
Let's try this- see if you can sign on to this statement ----
Because the WAC is relatively broad "circumstances warrant" - OSPI Cert doesn't have criteria that speaks to acceptable versus unacceptable "circumstances" -- so as long as the district presents rationale, you have no grounds for denial. True?
Also - can either you or Debbie recall ever denying a conditional cert application based on rationale viewed as inadequate?
The district could be the clock hour provider right?
----

Then on to D.K. at OSPI certification ... who was a cc: on the above Wallace email.

DK wrote: all requirements for issuance, according to WAC 181-79A-231, have been met.

An unsupported statement as David Kinnunen has yet to provide any factual proof to support it.

WOW OSPI says so ... so it must be true.
----

Which Superior Court Judge will need to bail the district out of this pickle?