I guess it would be possible to spin last week into good news but the way I see it, it was a pretty big fail for the school board and super.
First the district applied for grants it was no longer eligible for, from WJCT:
Vitti told board members this week that the district learned some of the schools slated to receive upgrades no longer qualify for the bond. That’s due to a change in Jacksonville’s status as a so-called “Empowerment Zone” site, a federally-recognized high-needs area.
“Our bond counsel went through the specifications of the QZAB II in our application, and it became clear that our Empowerment Zone designation expired at the end of the ‘12-13 year as a city,” Vitti said.
As a result, 16 schools, including Loretto Elementary, Fletcher High and Jacksonville Beach Elementary do not meet the socio-economic threshhold to receive QZAB dollars. That amounts to about $6.1 million in upgrades and resources, according to the district.
Vitti said he was unsure who was responsible for allowing the city’s designation to expire.
Now this may be cleared up and it’s unclear how much responsibility the district bears for the snafu but it seems to me this was a box that the district should have made sure was checked. The district however was able to brush this off as a bump in the road off because it somehow managed to find sixteen million dollars in the couch cushions of the Ivory Tower. From the Times Union:
Vitti had good news on that front: School officials scrutinizing the district’s capital fund accounts discovered that about $18 million from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years went unspent.
The money can only be used on capital projects — such as building construction, major repairs, technology purchases, and some transportation costs. It can’t be used on personnel or scholarship programs, for instance.
Vitti told the board he wants to spend $6.1 million of it on technology upgrades at the 16 schools that no longer can use bond money.
So it seems at the end of the day we will only be out six million dollars, just a six followed by six zeroes. Not anywhere close to being as bad but who the heck is doing our accounting down there. We just had 18 millions dollars lying around in a bank account marked, open in case of bond fiasco! Not to be to demanding but shouldn’t the district at all times no how much money it has?
The district treated this discovery like a victory where I look upon it in horror wondering what else is going missed.
Being the super is most definitely a complicated and difficult job but you know what else is? Being a teacher is and have you seen all the paper work and data teachers are required to keep? It’s mind numbing and never enough for the district’s data police. The district isn’t giving teachers a break as it piles more and more on their plates and has higher and often unrealistic expectations.
Losing out on six million dollars and then miraculously finding 18 million more are big and alarming deals and the city should treat them as such.
We should and have to do better.