Thursday, April 21, 2005

As Seattle sees us (conclusion) ...

This concludes the article begun yesterday, as referenced by New Orleans News, from the Seattle Times web page, and written by Adam Nossiter of the Associated Press:

At the glass-and-steel school administration complex across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans, FBI agents and other federal and state investigators have opened an office to pick through the evidence of graft.

Just last week, a payroll clerk was sent to jail for stealing $250,000 — she had kept her job with the New Orleans schools, even after being indicted on charges of stealing from a bank. A year ago the district's insurance manager pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks. One of the bribe-givers was former Mayor Marc Morial's aunt.

In February, the U.S. Education Department said nearly $70 million in federal money for low-income children was either not properly accounted for or misspent.

State officials said one reason is that for years, teachers and principals wanting promotions to more lucrative central-office positions have been put into accounting jobs for which they are not qualified.

"There is not one accountant working in the accounting department," Theriot said. "There's not one in the trenches."

State and federal officials are demanding that every aspect of the district's finances be turned over to an outside accounting firm. The locals are balking, but they probably cannot resist much longer: Washington and Baton Rouge, which give New Orleans more than half of its $577 million budget, have the upper hand.

Meanwhile, morale in the beleaguered teaching corps is sagging.

"We're constantly hit by these disasters," said Leo Laventhal, a French and Spanish teacher at one of the city's magnet schools. Often, colleagues at his school never receive their paychecks. And it is no use complaining: "We call the central office, and nobody answers the phone," Laventhal said.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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