Dr. Nyland Issues a Heartfelt "Whoops" over Gates Preschool Grant

Despite Cashel Toner's "this is how it's done," actually NO, this is not how grant agreements over $250K are done in SPS.  Why anyone on the Board took her word for it is beyond me.

From the Superintendent's Friday Memo:

At the board meeting on Wednesday you approved the $750,000 Gates grant for a Gatzert pre-school. Thank you, that will allow us to move forward on providing much needed and appreciated services for high need students at Gatzert. 
Following the board meeting, you noted that the support materials for that agenda item included a copy of the contract between the Gates Foundation and the District. It was noted that I, as superintendent, had signed the grant in September which is much earlier than approved by the board. 
In following up, I have confirmed that we did in fact receive the money from the Gates Foundation in October however, those funds were held and would not have been spent until Board approval was obtained. 
My early signature was obviously not appropriate policy or practice. I apologize. What I know now, but did not know then, is that we have a routing form for all contracts which require multiple signatures by different departments – ending with the superintendent. That did not occur in this case. We also have a protocol for recognizing and correcting errors such as these. General Counsel for the District will make you aware of those steps. I certainly do acknowledge this mistake and now know the proper steps for approving contracts. 
- Larry
Dr. Larry Nyland, Superintendent
Key Points from the Legal Department:
1. There are two relevant Board policies. Policy 6114 provides that grants are subject to the rules applicable to contracts, and reference Policy 6220. That policy provides that contracts (and thus grants) over $250,000 require Board approval. In speaking to the Superintendent early today on this matter, it was apparent that he had been uncertain on the process for approval of grants, but now understands how these policies apply. 
Editorial comment: how did that unsigned form get to him?  Why wasn't he briefed if this was one of his earliest grant signatures?  
2. It appears that after the grant terms were settled, the unsigned form was sent directly to the Superintendent for signature by the Gates foundation, bypassing staff. He simply signed it and returned it. As noted by Dr. Nyland below, he was not aware at that time of our standard signoff process. 
How clever of the Gates Foundation to send the agreement DIRECTLY to the Superintendent.  He didn't know the procedure, didn't check the policy and just signed and RETURNED it to them.  
3. The associated Superintendent Procedure SP 6220.A provides that unauthorized signings such as this must be followed up with a form that requires the signer and their supervisor to acknowledge the mistake occurred and that appropriate corrective action has been put in place to
prevent a recurrence. The focus is on education and corrective action. I believe the email below fulfills the intent of that procedure.
Key points from Ken Gotsch, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance:
1. Larry Nyland had just recently started his interim superintendent position with the district. 
He had NO business signing something that big without asking.  A huge RED flag if he wants to keep this job. 
2. The grant agreement was signed by Dr. Nyland on September 26th, 2014. 
3. On or about October 3 or 6 (weekend in between), Grants Administration received a check from the Gates Foundation in the amount of $250,000, unaware of a signed grant agreement. 4 Grants Administration deposited the check for $250k in a holding account (1M97) until such time as the grant was approved (or not) by the Board. 
4. At this point, Grants Administration also received an unsigned copy of the Gates Foundation grant agreement, for which grants staff began an approval routing form verifying that Kevin Corrigan reviewed the draft grant agreement (on 10/6) and legal reviewed (Ronald Boy on 10/7). 

I'm confused here because I thought all grants, especially Gates grants, were routed thru the Alliance for Education.

5. At this point, Grants Administration stopped the grant routing process and have been holding the routing form until the 11/19/2014 Board Action. 
6. Normal procedure would have Grants Administration routing the Gates Pre-K grant to completion now. 
7. It does not appear that proper protocols were followed to obtain the Interim Superintendent's
8. It is suggested that routing and approval protocols be sent to all departments and schools to provide clarity to this process. 
9. As this pertains to all contracts, agreements, grants received, etc. I believe this should come out from the Communications Office. 
10. Note. No one has access to use or approval to use these funds to this moment in time. 
So this is interesting because Ms. Toner (wrongly) said the funds to renovate the classroom/bathroom/playground at Bailey Gatzert came from "BEX III" (when she meant BTA III).  Okay, so how come this job never came up at any committee meeting?  I never saw or heard one word about it.  I'll have to ask.
11. The first Kevin Corrigan saw the signed Gates grant copy was at the 11/19/2014 board meeting as the attachment to the Pre-K Gates Grant BAR. 
12. Kevin Corrigan is not sure how this came to be signed. Proper procedure would
call for the full routing protocol to be followed but it was not. We typically don't get the check
until the grant agreement is signed after board approval.
As to that last statement, no kidding.

End of district statement

Not good and sorry, no "move on, nothing to see here."  

It is astonishing how dumb senior staff thinks everyone outside of JSCEE really is.  That the Superintendent is playing along is yet another sign that he is co-opted.  (Sorry, there are truly no dumb people at the top and they know what they are doing.)


Anonymous said…
Ah c'mon! I for one do not believe BMGF staff doesn't know SPS's grant signature policies well enough by now to not have routed this properly.

And who does something like that when you are new on the job!! One simple question - "hey, how do you guys handle this kind of thing?" would have done the trick. Incompetence or intentional? Either way, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and this kind of mistake could quickly become disastrous in other scenarios

What a mess
I guess we will not have to wait long before the 5 directors who voted for this mess apologize also!.
Anonymous said…
Background includes grant work at BMGF .....???????


mirmac1 said…
Uh, can I have a "lack of internal controls" please?
Anonymous said…
State auditor, anyone?

-- Ivan Weiss
Charlie Mas said…
Mr. Nyland's claim that he did not know that grants in excess of $250k required Board approval is not credible. It's a lie. Either he knew or he should have known.

Mr. Nyland got the interim superintendent job on July 18, so he had been in the role for a couple of months when he signed the Gates grant. That's plenty of time for him to have read the policies and procedures. There aren't that many of them and most of them are very short. You could read them all in a single afternoon. Why hasn't Mr. Nyland read them?

Even if he has not yet read the policies that describe the scope and limit of his duties and authority, he had, in his two months on the job seen a number of grants and contracts that have been brought to the Board for approval. The BAR for each and every one of them referenced the need for Board approval for any grant or contract in excess of $250k. There were, in fact, several at his very first Board meeting.

Mr. Nyland's claim that he "didn't know" simply is not credible.
Charlie Mas said…
I'm sorry. "Mr. Nyland's claim that he 'didn't know' simply is not credible." is a little too euphemistic. Let me try again:

Mr. Nyland is lying.
Anonymous said…
There is another Superintendent Procedure that should be followed as well. It is SP6220.F


and it includes this language:

"Grant awards are designated for specific purposes and are usually accompanied by a statement of terms and conditions that guide the District or school on the use of these funds. The award document normally includes a written description of the approved
program, including a line-item budget, a statement of the specific terms of conditions of
the award, and information on how funding under the award can be accessed by the District. In accepting the award, the District accepts and honors the obligation to expend the grant funds in accordance with the terms of the award."


"The grant award must meet all of the following criteria:
(1) It must be consistent with the District's mission, core values, beliefs, and goals.
(2) It must have a value or benefit that is greater than the obligation under the grant
(3)It must be consistent with Board policies and administrative procedures.
(4)It cannot create or increase inequities in funding.
(5) It cannot violate bargaining unit agreements.
(6)It cannot usurp management rights.
(7) It cannot carry any conditions that would divert school or District efforts away from the District's primary mission.
(8)It cannot expose the District to insurance losses or risk.
(9)It cannot commit the District to unbudgeted or unplanned expenditures."

Besides all of the other policy and procedure violations already acknowledged, this grant does NOT meet these conditions.

1. Where is the statement of the terms and conditions of the grant, with the LINE ITEM BUDGET?
2. "It cannot usurp management rights." The grant specifically states that in year two the costs of the BG preschool are transferred to the City's program. Isn't that a usurpation of management rights with no MOU in place?
3. "It cannot commit the district to unbudgeted or unplanned expenditures." SEE Number 1. Without a line item budget that details how enrollment services for preschool will be paid for, how the Principals time managing the preschool will be paid for, how the materials for the classroom will be paid for, and how HR will be reimbursed for the hiring of preschool teachers, this grant is committing the district to unbudgeted expenditures.
4. "It cannot carry conditions that would divert the District away from it's primary Mission." The District Primary mission is K-12. Flip and Charles have definitely diverted attention away from K-12. They are running around working with/for the City on their Preschool plan instead of dealing with the very real problems with K-12 over crowding and Special Ed and so on. 20 kids to be served, while thousands more have no safe transportation to school, are in overcrowded schools, and don't get enough time to eat lunch.

How is it possible that they broke so many of the rules, and no one is being called to task?

What kind of example is this to our children? Never mind, break the rules all you want as long as it's "for the kids."

flabbergasted again
Anonymous said…

I don't expect a board apology. From an earlier thread from Melissa:

"I have e-mails from Burgess and others around the planning of the preschool program. They repeatedly talk about meeting with staff (and apparently love Flip Herndon) but guess who they NEVER reference? The Board. The only reference to the Board is an e-mail that Director Peters wrote with some pointed questions and they call her 'misguided.'"

If Sue Peters is 'misguided' in the eyes of Burgess and other City officials, yet remains the only board member who persistently asked questions Cashel Toner refused to answer, the majority of our board is toothless or clueless. Not good.


Anonymous said…
I, for one, will not leave Director Peters' hanging.

Perhaps it is the specter of re-election campaigns that call some directors to question their convictions. Because, well, we know that money talks and BS walks.

PollyAnna said…

"What I know now, but did not know then, is that we have a routing form for all contracts which require multiple signatures by different departments – ending with the superintendent."

Who was the genius that brought this item to Nyland for his signature? Are we to believe, that high level administrators, do not understand that grants in excess of $250K require board approval?

Anonymous said…

If you have career climbers like Toner and her mentor Codd, then what do you care? You have your lateral move to some other remunerative transfer waiting in the wings.

PollyAnna said…
It appears that either the Alliance for Education and/or the Gates Foundation gave Nyland the grant.

Where was Ron English? Would Nyland NOT have asked legal for advice before signing.

Did Nyland NOT realize that he needed board approval?

This story is really starting to stink.

I hope someone gets to the bottom of this story.

mirmac1 said…
Okay. Here's a throw down for the board:

If you take your job seriously, and you find your one employee has, either ineptly or deliberately, not done his job - why do you extend his contract rather than reprimand and demand the contract be terminated.

I'll wait.
I just spend a very long time trying to get to the COW meeting but traffic was unbelievable. I don't even know if it happened but to announce a meeting, then make it a maybe before a major holiday and it's about the most important person in the district?

You have to wonder.
Wow said…
Nyland and the Gates grant makes the Seattle Times.
mirmac1 said…
Well of course. A MSM mea culpa is what the apology is meant for. Not so much for the K-12 students and families that will ultimately be most impacted by the City's "P-5" alignment scheme.

Always a good sign when things start off with oopsies and "oh wells"
#BS said…
Nyland served Marysville school district.

According to Marysville School District policies, gifts of $100 or more needed board approval.

Hard to believe Nyland would sign an agreement for $750K without board approval.

Anonymous said…
Marysville school district was a mess under Nyland

Given the disastrous state of SpEd at SPS why oh why would the board hire Nyland who sat on his chestnuts while Marysville SpEd unraveled.

People it's time to realize we have the wrong people on the bus.
We need a wholesale change of our school board ASAP.

dryyti waiting
Watching said…
Let' be clear: The Gates grant involved accepting the grant AND entering into a partnership with the city. The grant was accepted BEFORE the Partnership Agreement had been signed with the city.

Director Peters and Patu argued that it was improper to accept this grant before a partnership agreement had been signed.

Nyland claims ignorance regarding funds. Time will tell where Nyland stands on the Partnership Agreement with the city.

The board was told- repeatedly- that they were only accepting grants and conditions with the city were dependent upon a Partnership Agreement.

Let's watch: What will happen with the prek Partnership Agreement with the city?

Will the board disallow the city to put prek charter schools into SPS space? What happens if the city hires TfA and wants to "loop" prek teachers into K?

Lastly, the board would be smart to only contract with the city for 3 years. Time will tell.
Reader47 said…
This just gets stinkier the more I think about it. Who wants to wager Mr. Nyland has already signed some kind of "agreement" with the City over pre-k - "ooops...silly me, I didn't know..."

Charlie is right - this isn't an "oops" its a flat out "cover my backside" lie - though I don't think Mr. Nyland is alone in concocting this little mea culpa story for one minute.

I applaud Directors Peters & Patu for trying to get answers. The rest of you? Shame on you - you have ONE employee to supervise and you can't even do that right. bleeahhhh

"Time will tell where Nyland stands on the Partnership Agreement with the city."

No, you don't need time. Nyland has gone out of his way publicly to lavish praise on the City for 1B's passage. No, he's all in.

But you are right - just as this is a pilot program for the City, it should be a short-term agreement. After all, we can't hire a superintendent for longer than 3 years.

Reader 47, I have asked for documentation around your issue. I have trouble believing something isn't already signed.

Lastly, I was perusing the RCW the other day. Turns out we were all wrong on what the Board can truly do.

Separate thread to come.
Watching said…
1B wanted SPS to implement prek and the city would run prek. The Gates grant sets-up this structure.
Po3 said…
what is starting to irk me is all the work that isn't getting done:

new middle school math?
science curriculum?
social studies curriculum?
and...how's that high school math going? are students making any progress with Discovery Math? Cannot remember the last time the board was updated.

seems like it's PreK this, PReK that, what happened to K-12?
Po3, there are large agendas at work, both within and without.

Maybe all those issues you named are quietly being worked on. But again, why so much fanfare over one preschool opening when we've had this before?

Why does Nyland take every chance to talk about the passage of 1B? Charles Wright "to support the community" on this issue? (Where is his support for bell times?)

And, where is the district staff and Board saying thank you to voters for 1351? I don't even care if it's a hedged thanks (like "I'm worried what this means for McCleary").

Where the love for that initiative which will reach MANY more children?

Today, I filed a complaint with the State Auditor's office over this issue.
n said…
I haven't read all the posts but seems to me that if Nyland didn't know, Ron English certainly did his job is to forewarn.
Watching said…
Thank you for filing a complaint with the State Auditor, Melissa.

To n's point: Shouldn't the district's attorney advised Nyland on this contract? Oh, to be a fly on the wall. Who was in the room with Nyland discussing this issue?

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Weirdness in Seattle Public Schools Abounds and Astounds

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals