No One Takes Responsibility for $300,000 Addition Mistake in Special Education Request for Federal Stimulus Funds
You might have had a teacher or two who told you to check your work before turning it in.
There are probably a few teachers in Huntley School District 158 who are either recoiling in dismay or laughing at how former teachers, now administrators in their district, have a different standard for themselves when they become administrators.
In this case, several parents, including Mrs. Sara DiFucci, seem far better at reading comprehension and mathematics than administrators who prepare and (are supposed to) read the documents given to the board and public.
In Thursday night’s board meeting, DiFucci pointed out a large error in special education material Supt. John Burkey submitted to the school board. It was in a document in which administrators added up their spending list for the Federal Stimulus ARRA IDEA funds.
There was a $295,576 addition error.
You can see the error on page 464 of 507 of the November board meeting packet.
Quick rounding is a way professionals and educators—even 5th graders in my son’s homework last year—look at numbers to see if there are any obvious errors.
Burkey’s board packet presented a spending total of $801,660.81 for 89 items in the initial request for Special Ed money from the Federal Stimulus Package.
The problem is that the first ten items on the two page list total more than $840,000.
A casual look of ten items lets you see there is an error.
|Item||Precise No.||Quick Round, 000′s|
Of course, Burkey probably doesn’t look at documents like this closely before they go to the board. That’s what staff are for.
Other administrators apparently didn’t bother either.
Later on in the meeting, board member Aileen Seedorf asked Controller Mark Altmayer if he knew of the large error.
Altmayer’s reply was interesting.
Without saying who was responsible, the Controller emphatically said it wasn’t his document, emphasizing he didn’t know about the error.
Sources within Huntley 158 have let it be known that multiple administrators knew of the error before Thursday night.
Is it possible, as top financial guy, Altmayer was left out of the loop and this wasn’t discussed at Burkey’s weekly cabinet meetings of which he’s part?
One might think that an expenditure as contentious as this would make that agenda.
To be fair to the new Special Ed (Special Services) Director Cheryl Kalkirtz, I have it on reasonably good authority the error was not of her making.
Interesting is no administrator was willing to raise his or her hand and say it was not Burkey’s mistake.
Burkey in the past has seemed proud of how he has a C.P.A. as Controller.
No comments about the C.P.A. test Altmayer passed Thursday night.
A fair question to ask is “What’s the point of having a C.P.A. as Controller if the district’s isn’t taking care that public documents with financial numbers in them are carefully reviewed?”
In any event, someone dropped the ball. In fact, the total for the proposed Special Education expenditures from the Federal Stimulus Package aren’t even in the ballpark.
In years past, Huntley’s board had Larry Snow and Tony Quagliano on it.
Both loved to review financial documents.
Snow, of course, lost to Mike Skala and Quagliano decided to retire.
There’s still a CPA on the board, Keven Gentry, but he apparently didn’t catch this mistake while reading the board packet. There are also a couple of M.B.A.’s on the board now. But, considering the District 158 administration dumped 507 pages into the board packet, there’s no reason they should have discovered the mistake.
The only board member who gave an indication of caring about the large error was Aileen Seedorf, who has been the one bird dogging on Special Education matters.
The six-member board majority expressed no concern at the mistake.
I will note, however, when state officials wanted a legislator not to find something, they smothered them in so much paper the odds of finding something that might be amiss were minuscule.
Burying people in paper is a tried and proven way to keep people from finding something.
Supt. Burkey didn’t so much as offer a superficial apology for the mistake. He didn’t say a word.
A $295,576 error would seem to me to be worth a mention.
Teachers help our children learn how errors should be admitted to when made.
It’s not as if anyone was expecting a Tiger Woods-like “I regret those transgressions with all of my heart” type of apology or offer of repentance.
An insincere “We regret the inconvenience this error may have caused anyone” that you might associate with a utility, bank or cable provider would have been in the something – anything category.
The example to teachers in the audience was when you make a large error admit to nothing and don’t say a word.
Special Ed director Kalkirtz apparently reports to Associate Supt. Terry Awrey.
Awrey, like all other administrators, sat silent, not volunteering a word lest it be thought he was at fault.
Showing teachers that neither he nor any of his top administrators are willing to admit to an error can hardly be considered leading by example.
It certainly won’t win a “We Set Good Examples” shiny apple award.
My guess is that all sorts of people set better examples of accountability than those unwilling to admit or apologize for this $300,000 mistake in public.
- kindergarten teachers
- first grade teachers
- second grade teachers
- third grade teachers
- fourth grade teachers
- fifth grade teachers
- sixth grade teachers
- any special ed teachers
- any certified special ed support people
or, well, you get the idea.
Some administrator(s) apparently has (have) not learned to check work before turning it in. Or to take responsibility for mistakes.
Or proof read the reading assignment given to the board and public.
Educators (and President Barack Obama) talk of teachable moments.
The Special Education revelation could have been one of those.
Burkey could have apologized for his staff’s mistake.
He could have asked his staff in public to be more careful in the future, to double check their work before turning it in.
It gives me something other administrators can use as “how-not-to” example.
Perhaps the school board and the public will allow the “whatever” approach to an almost $300,000 error.
Even my son has learned there are consequences to that approach.
My guess is that teachers have set higher standards for students in Huntley’s classrooms.