PEORIA, IL -- For a school district with a $12 million deficit, Peoria District 150 certainly has some high spending and apparently wasteful ways.
The public comments at the School Board on August 25 highlighted some of the wasted money. Here is a recording of the comments:
Board critic Sevino Sierra wondered why some school buildings still are not air conditioned, and questioned the board's priorities.
Critic Terry Knapp mentioned a Freedom of Information Act response showing a top administrator spent $450 for a hotel room in Los Angeles, Calilf on Dec. 23, charged to a District 150 credit card, also known as a P-card. "There's nothing going on two days before Christmas," Knapp said. He suggested that the administrator be fired for misusing the card.
He also questioned restaurant meals charged to the cards, and $650 paid in sales taxes last month on $9,000 in beauty supplies. Over $30,000 has been paid in sales taxes that the school district didn't owe, he said. The district is exempt from sales taxes.
When the board's turn to comment came, board member Jon Bateman noted that the charge in Los Angeles was put through on the 23rd but showed the hotel room was used on Dec. 20. For whatever that's worth.
Supt. Grenita Lathan denied that the district had paid the sales taxes, but did not comment on the hotel charge.
Critic Sharon Crews commented that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on staff travel, likely of dubious value to student achievement. A written copy of her report will be posted below.
It shows that combined with the $350,000 spent on Rosetta Stone (detailed at a recent board meeting by Crews), a foreign language computer program not in use except for a few students, almost $1 million has been wasted in District 150, while schools are not air conditioned and a $12 million deficit is on the books.
Two parents also spoke to the board. One said that District 150 schools do not welcome parents, compared with Quest, the charter school, which does welcome them.
The other complained about a student being bullied, and said her attempt to get the student transferred to another school has not been successful. Instead she received a bureaucratic runaround.
Lathan said she should talk immediately with an administrator in the audience about her issues.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here are the comments of Sharon Crews:
Dr. Lathan seemed pleased to announce that all schools except Richwoods are now Title I eligible and that she hopes to add Richwoods soon. To me, Title I equals poverty status. While I may see the need, I do not think “achieving poverty” is a cause for celebration.
I would prefer that District 150 spend all its time, energy, and money proving that public schools can be attractive and effective for students of all economic status. I do have a problem with providing free lunch and books to those families who do not meet poverty guidelines.
However, the extravaganza at the last board meeting revealed why Lathan is so pleased with the Title I status. Title I money provided $288,000 of the $388,000 spent on travel last year.
Much of 2 and ½ hours was spent singing the praises of the AVID program. I wish I could require each of you to tell me how you expect the $360,000 you have spent on AVID to meet its promise of closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.
You voted to spend $243,000 for travel to AVID conferences for summer 2013, last school year, and summer 2014 plus, at least, $117,000 on the program itself. How are you going to prove this program is worth $360,000?
So many forces motivate students for academic success—teachers, parents, grandparents, even siblings, and, most of all, inner drive. How can you possibly give AVID enough credit to justify the expenditure? You have money to pay AVID but it looks like you will be broke when it’s time to pay teachers who carry out your programs.
You sent 64 employees to Indianapolis in 2013 and 124 to Indianapolis or Philadelphia in 2014. Thirty-eight of those who went in 2014, also, went in 2013. Some employees get a double dose and most get none of this expensive training.
On the subject of travel, one administrator charged $428 for a stay at a hotel in Los Angeles for December 23. Who was traveling for District purposes two days before Christmas? There were no approved trips for those dates.
Your bad news tonight warrants a moratorium on travel and probably the end of some expensive unused or unproven programs. - 30 -