Editorial: When questions outweigh answers, something is amiss

Editorial: When questions outweigh answers, something is amiss
Superintendent Morton Sherman says there were never any plans to do away with the popular adult education program. (File Photo)

The Alexandria School Board, led primarily by newcomer Patricia Hennig, rightly pushed Superintendent Morton Sherman last week for information about a little-known nonprofit with links to the district.

The organization in question, Alexandria City Public Schools Education Foundation, was undoubtedly formed by Sherman, former school board chairwoman Sheryl Gorsuch and Deputy Superintendent Madye Henson for the best of reasons. Who would protest the creation of a nonprofit dedicated to raising money for unfunded and underfunded educational projects within the district?

But — as we’ve reminded ACPS officials and their colleagues at City Hall in the past — transparency is key. As long as the public and their elected officials have more questions about this foundation than answers, that advice bears repeating.

The concerns about the foundation’s existence and relationship to ACPS aren’t to be brushed aside. Though the nonprofit touts its connection to the district in its moniker, it does not, apparently, fall under the purview of the school board.

Just as troubling, though independent of the board, the foundation already may have drawn on district resources — taxpayer dollars by another name — to get off the ground. Are district employees toiling on behalf of the nonprofit during normal work hours? And is this work being carried out in the district’s facilities?

We don’t yet know if this has been the case. Sherman will fill the board — and taxpayers — in on the details January 24.

For the time being, we are left to assume this foundation was set up perfectly legally, with every ‘T’ crossed and every ‘I’ dotted. Still, it’s plain to see the board should have had the chance to weigh in on the formation of an independently operated organization with obvious ties to the district.

While we applaud school board members, especially a fresh face like Hennig, for taking the superintendent to task, we believe these questions need not have been asked at last week’s meeting. They should have been answered long ago.

And so as we wait for a full accounting of this not-yet-operational foundation, we are left with one final, burning question: Did district administrators learn nothing from the capital improvement budget fiasco a year ago?