Opinion Your Views — 07 February 2013

To the editor:

Former school board member Mimi Carter’s letter to the editor (“Please don’t ignore the benefits of an educational foundation,” January 24) raises more questions than it answers. The items listed by Carter, which she claims could be covered by community contributions to the questionable foundation, are items usually covered by the operating budgets of individual schools.

If these “really important elements” were not covered under previous operating budgets, why not? Why did the board or superintendent not seek other already-established avenues, such as school PTAs or approved community partners, to fund these items?

When questioned about the specifics of the vague foundation at the January 10 school board meeting, the superintendent cited the teachers’ dream fund — a fund he created under the previous board — as a reason for this foundation. Extra books, instruments and costumes for plays were never mentioned.

Interestingly, Carter stated that another reason for this foundation is providing funding for “basic needs,” funding she suggests is not available because of system spending on salaries and benefits. In February 2012, the Education Association of Alexandria presented concerns about staff salaries and benefits to members of the previous board. The association asked why — at a time when ACPS was saying it was unable to fund programs or teaching positions — was the district increasing the size of central office staff and paying out high salaries and benefits?

The association highlighted six-figure salaries of 12 central office staff employees, and half of them also received tax shelter annuity payments from the school system. When this questionable spending was brought to the board’s attention, why did Carter not raise her concerns about staff salaries supposedly depriving much-needed funding from school programs?

Even while many questions remain with few answers forthcoming, Carter assures the public that the superintendent had the full support of the previous board and the endeavor was widely discussed. If this was the case, the discussions the school board had “many times over the years” about a foundation set up within a public school facility — using public school resources and invoking the name of the public school system — should be readily available for public review in meeting minutes.

As pointed out by former school board member Scott Newsham, this public review of the facts may be a challenge. According to a July article posted on Alexandrianews.org, Newsham discovered that as of May the previous board had not approved minutes for any meetings that year and had only recently approved minutes for its December 20, 2011, meeting, which had taken place five months prior.

Since all open board meetings are filmed, the public may have to go to the videotape to view these numerous discussions referred to by Carter. With so many unanswered questions, school board members must continue to seek details about this foundation and its creation. That is part of their job, not part of some prescribed homework.
- Edmund Lewis
Alexandria

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