For still more
examples
of
preventable
losses in our
public schools,
scroll through
here.  

Working
together with
our schools'
leaders to bring
more transpar-
ency to
districts'
financial trans-
actions and
money-handling
, we can put a
stop to these
needless
losses -- and
put more of our
precious tax
dollars in the
classroom with
our school-
children and
teachers.
kids?" asked Lori Wilson, a substitute teacher and parent of three students.  "I'm shocked.  I thought there would be a lot more
checks and balances."  Another parent, Charles Marchant, said, "As a small business owner, I know it's tough to maintain the
checks and balances but there has to be some oversight."  Readers commented:  "This one had the 'checks' end of it covered,
but the 'balances' part of it was lacking....Who set up an account that had the ability to be tapped without a countersignature?"
and "With that Angel pin she was wearing, she sure had me fooled."
(SOURCE--Dave Summers / WKYC.com)
FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS:  
(1)  For Terry Fralick, Watertown, New York:  Was your $800K shortfall prediction with or without stronger internal controls in
place? If New York taxpayers find a way in this  economy  to cough up more money, what assurance do they have that you will be
a better steward than you were before Comptroller di Napoli's audit findings were released?  At what point do you take personal
responsibility for the preventable losses that occurred under your watch?
(2)  For Texas Lege education chairs Florence Shapiro and Rob Eissler:  What steps are you taking to assure that the
technology monies you lobbied for will be better spent than the $82 million loss Houston ISD has just experienced?
(3) For new Inglewood USD superintendent Gary McHenry:   What internal controls will you put into place regarding discretionary
spending by district officials and employees for travel and meals, and what steps will you take to encourage webinars, etc. in
lieu?
Now, last, let's find room in
your picture for
BusRadio, a
Massachusetts-based
company created by Michael
Yanoff and Steve Shulman --
no strangers to "injecting
advertising" into schools --  
for the purpose of using the
lure of
"free" GPS trackers to
school districts in order to
feed commercials to children
on school buses.  BusRadio
was introduced to CVUSD by
its then-transportation
director Raul Lopez who
currently faces charges of
having embezzled $109,000
from the district.

BusRadio earlier this week
followed Channel One and
closed its doors.  

10.02.09 FOLLOW UP:  No
response yet from CVUSD as
to how much they spent on
BusRadio or Raul's
BusRadio dealings including
fees and costs for his
attendance at conferences
where he might have learned
about BusRadio.  Ricardo's
away this week at an
education conference; his
secretary said she didn't
know which one or where..
When schools have a problem in one area they also often have problems in other seemingly
unrelated areas, and this is true in Hoboken, New Jersey where news comes that not only are
student scores down; but also recent audit findings have disclosed preventable losses at the district
ranging from student funds being used for a teacher's missing iPhone to MIA cafeteria money
totaling almost a quarter of a million dollars.  In the wake of a
three-mom Hoboken school board
Ironically, in the face of the Comptroller's findings, Fralick
has nevertheless sounded the
mo' money mantra at the
state level, claiming a $800,000 budget shortfall.  
"The Watertown City School District acknowledges that
the purchasing agent did not always ensure that goods
and services were purchased in accordance with the
District's procurement policy and regulation and
pertinent laws."
equipment by not putting the purchase out for bid, brought
to light during a
state audit.  Neither business manager
Lynne Wight nor superintendent Terry Fralick seem to
accept responsibility for the losses.  How heroic; looks like
they're blaming the district's anonymous purchasing agent:
(1)  Preventable loss:  $4,947
Watertown City School District (NY)
In charge:  superintendent Terry N. Fralick
COACHELLA USD (CA)
Posted 10.02.09
Not even Watertown schools'
business manager's CPA nor their
superintendents' position in the
"House of Delegates" for the New
York State Council of School
Superintendents were enough to
safeguard precious tax dollars from
preventable losses such as the
$4,947 they overpaid for playground
(L) Terry Fralick, Meria Carstarphen, Alda Benavides, Jack Raslowsky, Barbara Vigil-Lowder, Bob Lee, Pamela Short-Powell, Abe Saavedra
(7)  Preventable loss:  $203,000
Bernalillo Public Schools (NM)
In charge:  superintendent Barbara Vigil-Lowder
$84,500 - Bus transportation
"It was very easy," former
Byron ASD transportation
manager Scott C. Turpin
told
a judge earlier this week,
saying his embezzlement
started with a mistake in
billing when the school was
accidentally charged with
parts he originally
ordered for his home-based
automobile repair business;
later he also charged
equipment.  “It just escalated
and got out of control,” Turpin
said.  Fortunately a BASD  
bookkeeper discovered the
theft when attempting to
match parts purchased
against the district's inventory.

TAKE-AWAYS:  More eyes
always help; the $84,500
loss could have been
considerably less had
BASD's check register been
online along with more
financial specifics in their
board minutes.  For example,
although the public's given
vendor names and amounts
and the purpose for some
transactions ($9,482.50 for
gym lighting and $13,300 for  
upgrades to football
bleachers) no amount is
given for the
superintendent's salary on
his new contract.

CURE: Put BASD's check
registers online, tighten
internal controls.

10.01.09:  FOLLOW UP from
Dan Scow:
P E Y T O N   W O L C O T T

How we take back our children's
education:
one person, one question,
one school at a time.
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Copyright 1999-2009 Peyton Wolcott

"Walk softly
and carry a big stick."
-- Teddy Roosevelt

"Trust but verify."
-- Ronald Reagan
Just because you can
doesn't mean you should.
H o w   w e   t a k e   b a c k   o u r   c h i l d r e n ' s    e d u c a t i o n:    o n e   p e r s o n ,  o n e   q u e s t i o n ,   o n e   s c h o o l   a t   a   t i m e.
"Gloria from Luling" on
sidewalk outside
Walsh Anderson party at
Austin's Iron Cactus
with unnamed man who
was shy about  
revealing his name
(TASA Mid Winter, 2007 )
Soghra Najafpour (L) was
sentenced to death at age 13 for
the first time in
Iran; she's now
31 --
more here.  Did principal
Robin E. Lowe (L)  mention
Soghra during her 'Islam 101'  
day May 22 at Friendswood  JH?  
Will she mention Soghra at her
new gig running Houston ISD's
Pershing MS?  Wouldn't that be a
step towards "raising [her
students'] awareness of the
culture" -- of the true culture -- in
Iran?  That perhaps Robin's
invited speakers from CAIR might
have forgotten to mention?  
Oops?
UPDATE:  As of today no
response yet from Robin to
telephone and email queries.
IRAN: Execution
Danger Alert
School News Quick Links
Jan.-Sept. 2008  here
Oct.-Nov. 2008  here
The American Superintendent
(Leonard Merrell) as Allan
Ramsay's King George III
 
(Mixed-media collage by Peyton
Wolcott, Copyright 2008)
Wolcott
Peyton
6 SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS FOR SCHOOL
SUPERINTENDENTS

1.  End discretionary spending.
Set an example for your staff; let them know you mean
business about running a tighter ship:  No trips, no
conferences, no meals, no credit cards.  If you want to
learn more about something, use Google.  Do a
webinar.  Read a newsletter.   No golf games with
vendors, ever.  No chauffeurs, no rental cars.  Stay home,
do your work and keep your nose clean.

2.  Reduce administrative costs.
Go through your administrative staff roster and cut every
other job, starting with getting rid of all PR and
marketing.  No advisors, no consultants. Learn how to
really read a budget.  Put your check register and all wire
transfers online.

3.  Ethics.
No nepotism.  Let your wife and kids earn a living in a
field other than education.  No board members' spouses
working in the district.  Conduct all discussions with
vendors and potential vendors in the open; invite your
public to watch and ask questions.  Throw away your
contract and work year by year.  Move your chair off the
dais at board meetings.  You're not a team member with
your elected trustees.  You're not equal to them.  They're
your boss.

4.  No construction.  
If you're the rare district truly experiencing sufficient
growth to justify building new schools, splinter off that
population and let them start their own new school
district or charter school.  They might be able to take over
an abandoned church or office building for much less
than the Taj Mahal you had in mind.

5.  Back-to-basics curriculum.
Math table (1st grade: add, 2nd grade: subtract, 3rd
grade multiply, 4th grade divide) daily drill.  You made
sure your own kids learned the basics at home or with
tutors; why shouldn't all children have that same
opportunity?  Ditto for phonics.  Classical literature.  
History, not social studies.  No more block scheduling.  
Daily P.E. for all. Emphasize individual effort and
accomplishment.

6.  Attitude.  
You're a public servant, not a Third World dictator.
Practice humility and gratitude.  Remember when your
employees laugh at your jokes or tell you you're cool or
vendors marvel at your every utterance that they're all
sucking up to you.  Remember why you got into
education to begin with.  Sell your house in the gated
community and buy one in the middle of a real
subdivision like your average parents and taxpayers can
afford.  Let yourself be driven not by the latest platitude
you picked up at the latest education conference but by
the same wonderful noble desire to educate kids that got
you into this field
.
More "Best Practices"
here.
U.S. FEDERAL TAXPAYER DOLLARS
TO  DISD
2000-2007
2000-2001   $   121,951,145
2001-2002   $   137,745,786
2002-2003   $   169,103,740
2003-2004   $   188,618,903
2004-2005   $   188,838,330
2005-2006   $   215,068,567
2006-2007  
 $   217,970,686
TOTAL        $1,239,297,157
TEXAS TAXPAYER
DOLLARS TO DISD
2000-2007
2000-2001   $   204,116,731
2001-2002   $   180,097,229
2002-2003   $   254,465,426
2003-2004   $   199,905,502
2004-2005   $   199,940,243
2005-2006   $   198,907,113
2006-2007   $
  305,839,277
TOTAL         $1,543,271,521
Texas and U.S. taxpayers have sent
almost $3 billion
to Dallas ISD since 2000
Dec.2008-Jan.2009   here
Feb. - Mar. 2009   here
April - May 2009   here
June - July 2009   here
Leonard Merrell Center
Katy ISD, Texas
(PHOTO--Peyton Wolcott)
Looking for older commentaries?

Click here, see if you can find what you're
looking for; if not, try Googling whatever it
is in quotes along with my name in quotes,
as this example:
"embezzlement" "school" "peyton wolcott"  
As of June 1, 2009, there were 290 reports
to choose from for this one category.
Thank you for reading,
and thank you for your interest in our
schools and our schoolchildren.
Texas Hill Country - Mesquite and Wildflowers
Boerne

Looking for more info re transparency, real courage
and other Best Practices?

They're archived
here
By Peyton Wolcott
Thu., Sept. 24, 2009
Stand-up comedians Mike
Nichols and Elaine May had
an
improv routine in which it
evolved that a little girl is
telling her daddy goodbye, it
seems for a long time;
towards the end of the
sketch we realize it's
because he's going to the
pen.  After the dad departs
the little girl pulls herself
together quickly and
announces in a deadpan,
"Well, there he goes again."
The very structure of the
American political system is at
the heart of these failures. For
example, thwarting Obama on a
regular basis is an
unrepresentative senate where
"minority rule" prevails and
undermines what a majority of
the country may want. With two
senators elected per state,
regardless of population,
California with more than 35
million people has the same
number of senators as Wyoming
with just half a million residents.
This constitutional arrangement
greatly favours low population
states, many of which tend to be
conservative, producing what
one political analyst has called "a
weighted vote for small-town
whites in pickup trucks with gun
racks."
Funny seeing plaints about
our American bicameral
legislative structure
published by American Steve
Hill in UK's Guardian, a
country with a queen:
The uncredited author of this
quote by the way is
Tom
Geoghegan, a Chicago
Democrat labor lawyer
(United Mine Workers,
Teamster) who failed in his
bid earlier this year on a
"new progressivism"
platform to fill Rahm
Emanuel's seat.  Could it be
that the good people of
Illinois have had enough of
mean-spirited liberal elites
and progressivism -- not to
mention center-left pols
dissing the
hoi polloi?

Hill's piece's title?  "Obama
the Impotent."
Asides . . . .
Byron Area SD (MI)
Posted 10.01.09
No wonder Muammar's
confused
about the whole
take-up-your-tent-and-go-ho
me greeting we've given him
this visit, given
Condi's warm
Areva-related overtures two
years ago followed by Mr.
Obama's
world apology tour.  
Perhaps the French will let
him set up his tent at the
base of the Eiffel Tower and
he can commute to New
York each morning. . . . .
Good about the
Lockerbie
families' UN protests
yesterday in Manhattan.
Muammar Gaddafi and NYC tent
(PHOTOS--BBC, TimesOnline)
(L) 2007: Raul Lopez with new
BusRadio satellite system

(PHOTO--Rodrigo Peña/Press-
Enterprise);
Foch "Tut" Pensis (AP)
Somehow this came to mind
yesterday when I learned that
superintendent Anthony
Amato (above) had been
fired
from his latest job at Stockton
USD.  Yup, there he goes
again.  God bless him.
How many more teacher/
student sex cases must
there be before we all agree
enough already with teachers
fraternizing with students?
For now, the third day of
Sandy Binkley's (above) trial
in Tennessee has just
concluded and a jury will
have to decide just how far
"
sexual  textual" relations
between teachers and
students should go.
$109,000
Bus transportation
Picture if you will Coachella
Valley, encompassing as it
does 1,200 square miles of
desert and farms producingt
most of California's lemons,
oranges, avocados, figs,
persimmons, table grapes
and dates. Coachella Valley
USD, the local school
district, is charged with
educating the children of the
illegal migrant workers who
pick the lemons and
oranges; most of the
children arrive in Coachella
Valley not speaking English.  
Now picture 125 school
buses and vans moving
9,000 students to and from
CV schools each day.

Now, for a more accurate
picture, let's mention that
CVUSD's long-time supe
(and let's make sure we
get
his name right, Foch "Tut"
Pensis) quit last year when
as California's first NCLB
casualty the state retook
control of the district; Tut
was replaced by Texas/
Michigan transplant Ricardo
Medina (
ALAS, he's
president of the Association
of Latino Administrators &
Superintendents) earlier this
year.  So you've got a poor
underperforming district with
a lot of kids who can't speak
English and a turnover in top
management from far away
coupled with a bunch of
federal funds coming in with
typically little oversight and a
school board who may or
may not be holding any
administrators accountable.  
(Left) BASD supe Daniel L. Scow;
Byron MS
Sigma Partner-in-charge-of-
BusRadio Bob Davoli
Shirley Riley, Business
Manager was in fact [the
person] who pointed out the
discrepancies (embezzle0
ment) to me.  We immediate-
ly placed the employee
[BASD transportation
executive Scott Turpin] on
administrative leave and
investigated further.  Over the
course of several years he
had been making small
purchases and charging
them to the school district.  

He ended up resigning from
his position at the school in
lieu of a likely termination.  
He has made full restitution
as part of a plea bargain with
the prosecuting attorney.  

In response to this situation
we increased our efforts to
monitor revenue and
expenditures in all depart-
ments.  In direct response to
the situation in transportation
we separated the duties of
mechanic and supervisor so
supply inventories and
expenditures are monitored
independently. Expenditures
are also monitored and
approved by the business
department and
superintendent.  I believe we
have made significant
improvements in this area.

Total expenditures for
2008-09 were $10,273,203
plus $850,423 for food
service and athletics
combined.
When 'oops' is no longer enough:  10 reasons for
tightening our school districts' internal controls
Next time your schools sing the mo' money mantra, it's a great opportunity to ask your
superintendent about checks & balances for stopping preventable losses of tax dollars
By Peyton Wolcott
Friday, November 20, 2009 / 7:30 a.m. -
Updated Wednesday, November 25, 2009 / 6:49 a.m..
Vice President Joe Biden recently told us that he expected a 10% loss rate for the federal stimulus
package.  Based on ten preventable losses listed below -- all recent -- it's hard to imagine that our local public
schools are faring much better.  
"Look, we're such good stewards
of your hard-earned tax dollars
that we're opening our books to
you.  We have nothing to hide,
come take a look."
(2) and (3)  Preventable losses:  $21K+ and $81K+
St. Paul Public Schools (MN)
In charge:  then-superintendent Meria Carstarphen
In October 2009 James Allen Elwood, 63, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $81,000 from St.
Paul Public Schools.  How he did it:  Then -SPPS employee Elwood used his access to and control
of the district;s Xcel Energy account to pay his own residential bill and also by overpaying district
bills then requesting large refunds.  And in a separate incident, Sandra Jean Leis was charged
yesterday with using her access to a district account to write 41 checks totaling over $21,000 to
herself.  
(SOURCES-- Mara Gottfried / Pioneer Press & Fox News)
James Elwood (L);
Meria Carstarphen (R) is now
superintendent of
Austin ISD in Texas
(4)  Preventable loss:  $20,000+
La Joya ISD (TX)
In charge:  superintendent Alda T. Benavides
Jimmy Gonzalez (L);
Alda T. Benavides
Last week La Joya ISD police arrested Juarez-Lincoln High School principal Jimmy Gonzalez after
investigators found he allegedly asked employees to file fraudulent time sheets then asked them to
give him the money, he also allegedly sold a computer owned by the district to a former school
employee.  In addition, officials are looking into other instances including missing student fund t fund
raiser monies.  Apparently paying a full-time PR pro -- Lizzette Martinez, an award-winning Texas
School Public Relations Association member -- wasn't sufficient to promote
enough team building and collegiality at the high school to ward off undesirable
staff behaviors:  All of the reported incidents occurred in the face of LJISD's posted
job description for district principals (pay $84K-116K) which cites fostering
"collegiality and team building among staff; encourage their active involvement in
the decision-making process" as a job duty and responsibility.  
(SOURCES--JaredTaylor/Brownsville Herald & 2004 TSPRA Star Awards & 2009-2010 La Joya ISD
Action Plan.)
Bernalillo Schools director of
finance Denise Irion (L), supe
Barbara Vigil-Lowder
According to an audit just released by the state legislative finance committee, New Mexico
school districts' poor financial management has resulted in waste and abuse of public money.  
Auditors examined five districts and identified questionable spending, including the purchase of
a $91,000 tow truck by
Bernalillo Public Schools sold to another school district less than a year
later for $75,000; auditors also questioned the purchase of three sport utility vehicles from an
out-of-state dealer for use by employees.
(10)  Preventable loss:  $82,000,000
Houston ISD (TX)
In charge:  then-superintendent Abe Saavedra
Whether the losses resulted from carelessness or
embezzlement or anything in between, all below were
preventable -- whether for playground equipment or
trustee travel or student fund raisers or even millions for
technology -- and represent something lost to school-
children and taxpayers alike.  Come, take a look at ten
situations where sums range from $400 to $82 million:
"Houston ISD schools have gone without at least $82 million for technology upgrades while the district is
under federal investigation for questionable deals with computer equipment vendors.  Superintendent Terry
Grier said this week that the district is nearing a legal settlement so that schools can get the funds for
much-needed wiring, better Internet access, new servers and more.  The pact, Grier said, would require HISD to
pay the federal government about $850,000 to make up for the alleged wrongdoing, which involved former
employees accepting gifts from vendors. In exchange, the district no longer would be frozen out of the federal
technology grant program called e-rate."
 (SOURCE--Ericka Mellon / The Houston Chronicle)
Abe Saavedra
(9)  Preventable loss:  $7,500
Inglewood USD (CA)
In charge:  then-supe Pamela Short-Powell
Inglewood USD trustee Trina Williams, 49, was arrested on November 10, 2009 on charges
that she"allegedly overcharged the district $7,500 for training and travel expense, according to
the L.A. County district attorney’s office.  An audit by the Los Angeles County Office of Education
submitted in July exposed the alleged crime.  Williams, who was arrested November 10 by
investigators from the DA's office, will be arraigned next month on one felony count of
misappropriation of public funds. According to Deputy District Attorney Juliet Schmidt Williams
is expected to enter a plea at her December 4 arraignment at the downtown Los Angeles
courthouse to one felony count of misappropriation of public funds during the period June 13,
2007, and Sept. 28, 2008.  If convicted, Williams, who is free on $25,000 bail, faces a maximum
four-year state prison term.
(SOURCES--Robert Faturechi / The Los Angeles TImes & The Daily Breeze)  
Trina Williams (L); Pamela Short-
Powell (R) has worked at Pasadena
USD (CA), Okalahom City Public
Schools, and several
501(c) 's
(8)  Preventable loss:  $130,000+  
Kenston Local School DIstrict (OH)
In charge:  superintendent Robert A. 'Bob' Lee
Thirty-year Kenston Local School District front office employee Geraldine Kanieski has been
arrested after being charged with writing 86 checks to herself totaling $130,000 on the district's
checking account then cashing them.  No one noticed because unlike several other Ohio school
districts Kenston's check register is not yet online.  "All of the things our school needs, new
computers, new desks, new everything -- for someone to be stealing our money that goes to our
Geraldine Kanieski (L), Bob Lee
(5) and (6) Preventable losses:  $400 and $244,992
Hoboken Public Schools (NJ)
In charge:  then-supe John R, 'Jack' Raslowsky II, then-prez Frank 'Pupie' Raia
(L) Jack Raslowsky,
Frank 'Pupie' Raia
(L) Lynne M. Wight, CPA,
and Terry N. Fralick
TAKEAWAY: LJISD's 66-page 2009-2010 District
Improvement Plan doesn't mention
"accountability" or "internal controls" or money"
or "taxes" or "expenses"; hopefully, in light of the
negativity the arrest has brought to the district
internal controls will be listed in next year's DIP --
and local police will take over the investigation.
sweep -- they ran on a reform platform earlier this year -- which resulted in superintendent
Jack Raslowsky's departure for a job at a private high school in Manhattan and the defeat of
six-year board veteran and president Frank "Pupie" Raia, an affordable housing (read: federal
money) developer; after losing his school board reelection campaign, Pupie subsequently
also lost his bid for Hoboken mayor to yet another reform-platform woman whose campaign
was powered more by volunteers than by money.   Hoping this all portends hope for Hoboken
schoolchildren and taxpayers -- if the ladies can keep clear of vendor/lobbyist enticements
unlike another well-intentioned reforming mom, Liz Gallagher, arrested in September in a
federal corruption case on charges of using her Broward County, Florida school board seat to
award plum contracts in the district's construction program.   
(SOURCES--NJ.com, Hudson Reporter
and The Miami-Herald)
Did the success of reality show "Cake
Boss" stir Hoboken's civic awareness?
COMMENTARY:  Internal Controls - The unsexy name our schools don't like to
talk about for their in-place management procedures for safeguarding our dollars.
More preventable losses
For many of us, Mr. Biden's estimate is at least 9% too
much; imagine any business expecting to remain viable
with a 10% preventable money seepage rate.  In these
troubled economic times, the smartest and single most
effective pro-active step a local school superintendent
can take is to post his/her district's check register online.

What better way to tell your community:
H O M E