More Shocking Texas School Financial Corruption Stories
by David Bellow on March 10, 2011 at 12:13 PM
Mansfield ISD School Board Swindled into Mandatory Arabic Teaching – plus Beaumont ISD and Lumberton ISD updates
Read this blog post for more stories of why financial reform is needed so that School Boards can have more control over the hidden, and possibly destructive, financial deals made by the School Administrations. Even Governor Rick Perry just came out and yesterday bashing the non-educational and wasteful spending by school districts that is part of the reason we are in such a bind.
After I posted this story about School Administrations in Texas wasting taxpayer money and also hiding millions of dollars in expenditures from their School Board, I then received the following email about a shocking, yet similar, situation in Mansfield ISD:
You are exactly right. Your conclusions are well stated, and I believe our legislators need to consider what laws they could put in place to preclude school administrators from doing what was done in Lumberton ISD.
I particularly like the fact that you stated the school board should be involved in those grant applications. Case in point: The $1.3 Million grant that Mansfield ISD received to teach Arabic studies. What should have happened is that the school board should have been involved early-on in studying “the strings attached” long before the decision was made by the administration to apply for this grant.
Evidently what happened in actuality is that the Mansfield School Board was told on December 2010 about the grant and what was required of the district. Then the parents at Cross Timbers Intermediate School were brought in on Feb. 7, 2011, and were informed that their children would have 100 minutes per week of mandatory cross-curricular Arabic studies instruction starting this semester. (Mansfield ISD later denied the “mandatory” requirement and thought the public would be ignorant enough to believe them. Since the district had not required either opt-in or opt-out forms signed by the parents before the Arabic studies curriculum started, then it is obvious students in Grades 5 and 6 in a cross-curricular setting would have been “mandated” to receive the 100 minutes of Arabic studies instruction.)
Thank you for making the Lumberton ISD accountable publicly and for having the courage to make sure other Texans realize similar tactics may be occurring in their own school districts.
Wow! The School Administration swindled everyone, even the parents, into having to learn Arabic studies without the elected officials on the School Board getting to have a say in the matter? This is just another of the many stories of how School Administrations in Texas are out of control. They are able to do it without the consent of their School Board because somehow School Boards do not have to approve Grants that the School Administration applies for, even if there are massive strings attached. Like I have said before, reform is needed to reign in this out of control spending in school districts. We especially need to focus taxpayer money on simply good teaching, instead of wasteful spending, because of the financial crunch the state is currently in.
Beaumont ISD Updates:
I previously posted an article about Beaumont ISD and their grossly excessive spending. The good news is that BISD has since stopped its plans to build a hotel because of a Texas Bill that was introduced that will prohibit schools from building hotels. Unfortunately though, until School Reforms are implemented, Beaumont ISD will continue to be riddled with financial scandals. For instance, they recently bought a few massive and expensive Ford Super Duty King Ranch Edition pickup trucks using a grant they got so that they could buy new, low emission vehicles. And how about this most recent article where the official spokeswoman for Beaumont ISD lied about her nearly six figure salary in order to get financial assistance that was meant for poor and elderly hurricane victims. She has yet to be disciplined and I suppose it is fitting that this corrupt person is the face of a corrupt School Administration.
Lumberton ISD Updates:
Lumberton ISD was also part of that original story about School boards not knowing what School Administrations are doing.
TexasGOPvote went to the Lumberton ISD School Board meeting to see what the School Board was going to say about the situation and they got it on tape. This is what transpired: I opened up the meeting with a statement to the School Board in which I explained my position and actually thanked the School Board for taking on the problem to try to fix it.
Next up was the School Board President.
In a very politically correct manner, and hidden in a long speech, the Lumberton School Board President agreed that the Administration had been hiding millions of dollars from the School Board. The School Board President emphasized that it is technically legal for the School Board to not be told about the grant money, but in the same breath, the School board President also said that the School Board cannot "fulfill their responsibility for oversight" as they were elected to do unless they know about all the money coming in and being spent. The School Board president said that from now on the School Administration must allow the Board to "review the use of these funds in the future." The School Board also said that they have "contracted an audit firm to conduct an internal audit" to do a complete review of the "the federal funds" that were hidden as well as all other financial operations of the District.
Did the school board make a big deal out of the issue? No. But that was expected because most school boards do not want bad press coverage. Did the school board do the right thing by telling the school administration to tell them about future money and by also hiring a firm to do a complete internal audit of finances? Yes! The Lumberton School Board, in a very quiet sort of way as to not bring attention to themselves, is standing up and fighting back. The people of Lumberton should be happy to know that their elected school board members are taking this issue of hidden money head on! Please note that this is a completely different school board than just a couple of years ago so the people did the right thing when they woke up and elected these new faces to the board and these new faces on the board are trying to get to the bottom of things.
So that problem seems to be solved for Lumberton’s hidden money because the School Board is requiring the School Administration to disclose any money, even grants. But this problem of hiding money is technically legal and can happen, and is happening, all over Texas.
Lumberton ISD secret IOU’s to School Attorney:
Lastly, in my previous post about Lumberton ISD, I also suggested that something funny was going on with the payments to the School Attorney. Specifically I suggested that the Administration, without the knowledge of the School Board, was writing IOU’s to the school attorney. The School Attorney stood up and completely denied any allegations.
That means I have to show everyone my proof or else it is a he said she said thing.
Here is the proof:
I requested an LISD Open Records Request for all the payments to the School Attorney for the last 5 years.
What I discovered was that the School Attorney received regular monthly paychecks from LISD up until the very last payment he ever got from LISD, which was on January 6th, 2006 . Well, the problem is that the School Attorney served in a full capacity until he resigned on June 11th, 2010 and the School Board accepted his resignation on June 22nd, 2010. So that means there is a gap of about 4 years where the School Attorney was NOT getting paid. Do you still believe that there is nothing fishy going on here? Obviously, based on the facts, there was some kind of strange financial deal going on. What it was we might never know, but the School Board did not know about it and when they found out, one of the school board members questioned if the Administration had been lying on the audit when they claimed they had no outstanding debts. The school board worked something out in an executive session so we don’t get to know anything. The School Attorney resigned. He did not get any back pay because he never billed the school because he was told by the school he was not going to get anything. My guess is that whatever was going on he wanted to keep secret, so he did not pursue getting back pay and just let it go. Also, the Administration official who did this strange agreement is no longer at Lumberton ISD and is now at another School District.
For further evidence, you can go to the online LISD Operating Fund Check Register and see that, as far back at the check register goes, the previous school attorney did not get paid. On the other hand, you can see at the online check register that the new school attorney immediately started getting monthly payments when he took over. I DO NOT care to make a nice man look bad. I know the previous school attorney and he are really nice guys, and it pains me that I had to bring all of this out about them.
But I DO care about school administrations ending their shady financial dealings and I DO care that our elected School Boards have more control over their administrations. That meant I had to bring out all this dirty laundry about the School Attorney situation. This situation brings many questions like, if the school attorney was not officially the school attorney and not getting paid, then every executive meeting he attended might have been illegal because only the official School Attorney can be at those meetings. Or was he getting paid some other way under the table? I know this previous attorney, and I don’t think that he would have been involved in anything illegal because he is a very nice guy, and I wish him well in retirement. But we JUST DON’T KNOW. That is the problem, we don’t know because of the secrecy of School Administrations and the inability for School Boards to oversee them like they are elected to do.
Obviously, there was something funny going on behind the scenes with the School Attorney payments and the School Board SHOULD have known about it. They did not know about it, and that is the point of all of this. What else does this, and other School Boards across Texas, not know about their School Administration’s financial practices?
School Finances need to be reformed and elected School Boards need to legally have more oversight over the School Administration’s dealing.