Thursday, April 14, 2005

Nagin sounds the alarm...

From by way of Yahoo! news:

There's no doubt about it: Mayor Ray Nagin is sounding the alarm over the state of the Orleans Parish Public Schools system.

"What I am saying to you is that this system is bankrupt, and it needs to be handled like a bankruptcy," Nagin said Wednesday when reporters caught up with him outside the tourism bureau on St. Charles Avenue. "We need to declare a state of emergency."

Nagin said he was not happy about how the Tuesday ouster of schools Superintendent Anthony Amato was handled. Amato resigned amid pressure from School Board members over the district's financial crisis and growing criticism from lawmakers that the system lacked leadership.

"I don't understand why we put this man through a public lynching or a public execution," Nagin said. "We could have taken him aside and said it's not working out."

Nagin said Amato had called him recently asking for help.

"He said, 'Mr. Mayor, I need money,'" Nagin said. "He said, 'I understand that you've got some sales taxes or other taxes that you owe us, and we have not been paid.' So we checked into it and found $5 million in property taxes and cut him a check for $3.5 million in sales taxes. He said at the time that he needed $15 million to $18 million to make payroll. He got $8.5 million from us.

"But if you can't even make your payroll, if you're struggling to make payroll, what do you think is happening to the other bills? Do you think the electricity bill is being paid? Do you think students are getting the supplies they need?"

Nagin said he feels Amato did the best he could with a very bad situation, but that fundamental issues -- including spending patterns -- must be addressed before any real progress can be made.

"You need a turnaround specialist," Nagin said. "I'm talking to everybody who will listen. I think it can be fixed, but I think we need to get real. You can vote in new board members and hire another superintendent. We've done that 11 times in 20 years. But fundamental issues need to be challenged, or we're going to be right back here six months from now."

Nagin also said officials and administrators have been focused on the wrong things.

"I am literally grieving for the children," he said. "In all the discussions we've been having, I have not heard anyone talk about the kids. It's always about the adults."


jbv's Competitive Edge 


Blogger oyster said...

It's utterly tragic.

THat Superintendant Amato couldn't adequately remedy the corruption is a profound disappointment to me. Like many, I had high hopes.

3:43 PM  

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