The Buffalo School District is acting like the hoarder who is surprised to learn that there are multiple boxes of the same product stuffed into different corners of an already overstuffed room and overlooked.
That’s what it sounds like after the latest revelations regarding the dysfunctional district. A review paid for by Say Yes Buffalo found an embarrassment of riches – unfortunately, not being spent on educating the children. The audit of the district budget found $3 million in overtime for tradesmen and $700,000 in credit card purchases for inventory that went unchecked and unaccounted for.
Maybe the credit card purchases could be found in the district supply warehouse, which contained unopened boxes of athletic uniforms and books that had not been distributed. No one knows.
School Board member Carl Paladino had a succinct description of the impact of the audit’s sorry findings: “If you’ve got a ton of bricks and no one knows they’re there you end up ordering more bricks.”
The overtime for tradesmen, civil service workers, is brought about in part because, unbelievably, they are scheduled to report during regular school hours. But they cannot do their work until students leave, and then they are entitled to overtime.
An auditor also identified $6 million in grant money that the school district had to return to the state because it did not use it.
District leaders could redirect $24 million in federal dollars targeted for supporting poor children in the classroom, $2 million of which is now being used on administrative costs to oversee grant programs. Sound familiar? Advocates for students have been sounding the alarm on those administrative costs.
Members of the School Board listened to the presentation during which it was explained that there is money to pay for key initiatives, such as lowering class sizes in the elementary grade levels and after-school programs.
Apparently, it just requires pulling up the corners of the district’s mattress and finding a stash. It goes without saying, but we will anyway, the district has to become more organized.
That’s where new Superintendent Kriner Cash comes in, along with the board’s supervision. Encouragingly, officials plan to take the information brought to them by an outside auditor – which begs the question as to why they weren’t able to catch the problems – to revamp the district’s central operations and actually put more money into programs that directly affect students.
Cash indicated that the audit will help in the streamlining of district operations. Once that happens, maybe the resources intended for education can actually reach the students.