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What about those stipends for the other five years?

Today's story looks at the stipends that Buffalo Public Schools administrators received -- above their annual salary, and apparently without the Board of Ed knowing about them -- for two years.

In 2008-09 and 2009-10, 14 administrators got a total of $210,187 for their work helping to train new principals and assistant principals in the district's Leadership Academy.

But that's only part of the picture.

Marion Canedo Several people I spoke with said the academy began sometime during former superintendent Marion Canedo's tenure, although nobody could peg the exact year it began.

Canedo retired in 2004. That means, by the most conservative estimate, that the academy has been running for at least seven years.

If stipends have been paid to district administrators the entire time, that leaves at least five years of stipends (including the current year) as yet unaccounted for.

Board member Chris Jacobs, who initiated the inquiries into Leadership Academy expenditures, said when he asked for an accounting of the grant funds, Mark Frazier (pictured at right), who runs the academy, provided a breakdown for 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Mark Frazier Well, what about all those other years?

Keep in mind, nothing in the administrators' contracts prevents them from getting paid for outside work -- as long as it doesn't interfere with the duties for which the district pays them an annual salary. Nobody's suggesting these people broke any laws or violated any contracts.

But there remains an important question: When did they do all this work for the Leadership Academy? Was it during time they were getting paid a salary for doing their full-time job?

There's one thing that's clearly documented: Of the 30 seven-hour training sessions for the academy, 20 of them were on Saturdays. But the other 10 were on Thursdays or Fridays -- days when these administrators are generally expected to be doing their full-time work.

Exactly which people were working with the academy on those Thursdays and Fridays? And when were they all doing their prep work for the academy?

Remember, there are at least seven years to account for, although we don't have a list of exactly who was getting paid through the outside grant for Leadership Academy work for those other five or more years.

Nobody who collected a stipend responded to a request for comment on Tuesday.

But after I started asking questions, Superintendent James Williams issued a statement saying that "these employees performed most of the work on evenings and weekends, [but] the employees involved have relinquished leave time to compensate for the time they performed those duties."

When I asked for details, I was told by district spokeswoman Elena Cala that "it's still in the planning, Mary. So, future tense. Nothing but an agreement at this stage."

Hmm. I thought "have relinquished" was past tense.

Well, let's hope the district plans to be transparent about exactly who relinquished how much leave time once those details are resolved.

And while they're at it, a full accounting of expenditures for the entire life of the academy would be nice, too.

- Mary Pasciak

E-mail me at mpasciak@buffnews.com or follow me on Follow  SchoolZoneBlog on Twitter Twitter. Check out the Buffalo News' education page at www.buffalonews.com/schools.

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