Given the $24-$25 million shortfall predicted for Richmond Public
Schools this year, I stopped by a recent RPS School Board budget work
session on the 17th-floor at Richmond City Hall to see how the School
Board and RPS administration are handling the news. To be sure, there
was great consternation in the ranks, lots of heavy sighs and
eye-rolling, but very few ideas other than "we
need to wait and see."
There was no discussion about possibly creating some income from the
sale of School Board buildings that are no longer in use and have been
"surplussed" back to the city. Nor was there any discussion about
looking at what the board spent money on last year to perhaps consider
what they could do without this year. Board members and the
superintendent repeatedly took turns lamenting how the budget had been
already cut "to the marrow."
The only thing missing from the meeting was the traditional
rending of garments and plaintive pleadings on behalf of "the children,
the poor, poor children." These dramatic entreaties will most likely be
saved for when the School Board and Superintendent Brandon make their annual
pilgrimage to City Council Chambers and the cameras that broadcast
those proceedings. Stay tuned for more RPS drama ...
A document obtained through a Freedom of Information request --
"non-student vendor payments of $10,000 or greater (cumulative) July 1,
2010 to June 30, 2011" -- reveals some rather interesting expenses that
the citizens of Richmond might find worthy of further
explanation from our elected leaders. Here are just a few intriguing examples:
Why, for instance, did RPS use Richmond taxpayers' money to send:
* More than a million dollars for a mere eight months work to McDonough
Bolyard Peck (MBP) Inc.? The construction management company's contract
expired March 2, 2011 and was not renewed.
* Even though RPS already has an extensive I.T. Department, RPS spent
nearly $2.5 million -- $2,403,782.12 -- on Wheat Systems Integration,
another private company, for I.T. work.
* Why in the world did RPS send nearly a million dollars -- $999,987.02
-- to Petersburg Public Schools?
* What prompted RPS to send $100,026 to Redeemed Assembly of Jesus
at 1606 E. 18th St. in Richmond?
* Or, how about $17,250 to "The Shout Church, Inc." at 301 Central
Avenue in Hilton Head, S.C.?
* $17,484.79 to Check City? "Check City"?
* $580,256.29 to Communities in Schools (CIS) ?
* $381,325.00 to Community Education Partners (CEP) ?
* $31,957.90 to Norfolk Public Schools?
* $46,038.97 to Armstrong High School in Richmond?
* Why did RPS spend $292,307.09 on Waste Management of Richmond -- a
PRIVATE trash removal company?
* More than $2 million -- $2,750,485.03 -- to the Richmond Department
of Social Services?
* More than $1 million -- $1,108,888.90 -- to the Richmond Education
Repeated telephone calls to Lynn Bragga in the RPS Budget and Finance Office, P. Andrew Hawkins, asst. Supt. for Operations, Supt. Yvonne Brandon, newly anointed School Board Chair Dawn Page and RPS Public Relations officer Felicia Cosby last Thursday and Friday asking for an explanation of these costs were not answered by deadline today. And, I haven't even tallied up how much RPS and the School Board spent on hotels, airlines, lawyers and so-called "educational consultants" last year. Yet.
Stay tuned .... more details to follow.