Thursday, May 23, 2013


The district had what is called an "exit conference" yesterday from a regularly scheduled state audit.  Two items of note turned up.

For the FOURTH year, the district claimed more students than they could justify for the federal grant for Native American students.  According to the Times, they received about $6k more than they should.  The district has returned nearly $330k over the last 3 years to the feds.

Not good and really, truly - there is no excuse.  (I'm sure the district had one but I'm glad I was not there to hear it.)  And people wonder why the Native American parents are mistrustful of the district. 

And, the district was questioned in the spending of federal grant money for preventing high school students from dropping out to the tune of about $490k.  The district got the grant in 2010 for about $12M over five years and apparently the questioned spending was not part of what was in the district's original application. 

From a source at the meeting, I understand that Superintendent Banda said these are not good things but that they should not overshadow the good work under the grants.

Between the two items, it is small money.  I hope that there is some good work being done.  But the fact STILL remains that our district, in so many audits, gets their work questioned in using federal grant dollars.  When it happens this often, someone, somewhere is doing their job improperly. 

It is confirmed that fifth-grade teacher, Monica Ratliff, on a shoe-string budget beat off ed reformer Antonio Sanchez for the LA school board.  This LA Times story explains how. 

She had no paid staff and no meaningful help from her own politically active teachers union.
Her strategy to achieve some name recognition was to mail out refrigerator magnets, which cost $5,000 in scarce campaign funds. Ten to 20 faithful volunteers knocked on doors every weekend.

Best line?

Political observers shook their heads Wednesday as they tried to make sense of it all.

What?  You mean money and power didn't win? Nope and that, and a low voter turnout, favored Ratliff.

Ms. Ratliff said:

"Voters put their belief in skills and expertise.... It sends the clear message that school board seats are not for sale."

Chicago School Board, all of whom are appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, voted yesterday in favor of closing 50 schools where 88% of their populations made up of African-American students.  It will be the largest closing of public schools in US History. 

The Chicago Tribune printed an editorial that can only be called manipulation of the highest order, calling on teachers to basically give up the fight and get with the program (To note, the Tribune is owned by the Koch brothers who would also like to buy the LA Times.) 

For some odd reason, they start with the life-saving measures that teachers in Oklahoma took to protect their students during the tornado, then tie that to the school closures.

And that brings us back to the teachers.

They have fought intensely against these closings. They’ll continue to challenge the board’s decision in federal court.

But their complete cooperation in the months ahead will be essential to ensuring a safe, successful transition for their students. Many teachers will follow kids to new buildings. Those charged with shepherding kids safely to school will depend on teachers to help, to speak up if they see dangers.

The teachers may not agree with every closing or any closing. But it will be up to them to make this work.

And far beyond that: The teachers will be key to restoring Chicago’s focus on building a much better public school system, on graduating students who are prepared to succeed in college and the workplace.

That can’t be achieved if Chicago’s teachers fight every effort at reform, if they are in a perpetual war against those who lead Chicago’s public schools.

Have the Chicago teachers fought every effort at reform?  Nope.   And I'll bet those teachers who serve in their under-resourced schools know very well what this will mean for their school communities (and not just themselves as the editorial seems to imply). 

What is the last line of the editorial?

Teachers, be heroes.



mirmac1 said...

The audit will be posted on the SAO website May 28. This was the Financial and Federal Accountability audit.

The district is hoping to convince fed overseers to accept some of the ineligible charges including:

An Executive Director of School Improvement

Work by an IT tech last summer that was not related to the grant scope.

Michael H said...

@mirmac1: "Federal Accountability audit." Wrong. It is the Federal Single Audit. They said the accountability audit is still going on. Maybe you need a good copy editor, mirmac1.

mirmac1 said...

Good on ya, Michael. You corrected my nomenclature. I'm sure many parents are very relieved. You should work for the Seattle Times. Seriously.

Gabriel said...

FYI -- The Chicago Tribune is not owned by the Koch brothers. At least not yet. There is speculation that Tribune Co. (which owns both the Chicago Trib and the LA Times, as well as the Baltimore Sun) could soon be sold, and rumor has it the Kochs have expressed interest ... but that's as far as it's gone, at least in public. The Trib does, though, have a historically conservative editorial page.