School Beat: The Fiduciary Responsibility of School Administrators

by Katy Franklin on October 15, 2009

Jill Tucker’s recent Chronicle article regarding District employee’s credit card charges only touches the surface of the problem. When it is revealed that Board of Education President Kim-Shree Maufas and other San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) administrators misuse public monies, it casts great doubt upon their capacity to oversee how SFUSD spends its funds. Ms. Maufas and others on the Board of Education (BOE) recently approved a 3.2 million dollar professional development contract of questionable value. Are these decisions good for the students of SFUSD?

Last year, the principal of Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, Sandy Leigh, and teacher Kelly Clark, walked 109 miles to Sacramento to bring attention to the fact that their school site had only 32 dollars in the budget for school supplies for the whole year. 32 dollars for all the paper, pencils, erasers, markers, and everything else the 215 children at their school would require for an entire year. So Ms. Leigh, Ms. Clark, and a few parents walked, for 5 days, with blistered feet, in 90-degree heat, to let our governor know that this situation was unacceptable.

Through a recent standard “request for Information” form request resulting in 450 pages and a $45 charge at 10 cents per page, San Francisco public school parents have uncovered a host of indefensible spending practices that have occurred at the same moment when our schools are too strapped to cover the basics.

For instance, just one month before Ms. Leigh began her walk to Sacramento, seven SFUSD administrators were at the Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkeley, to “discuss” leadership. This lavish weekend retreat cost the students of SFUSD thousands of dollars. They ordered a 200-dollar cheese tray and a 120-dollar dessert platter. An elementary school in SFUSD had only 15 cents per student for supplies — yet SFUSD administrators sat on the veranda at the Claremont Resort, ordering seven deluxe “boxed lunches” at 35 dollars each and 6-dollar bottles of water.

One SFUSD administrator in particular, Associate Superintendant Francisca Sanchez was reimbursed $26,527.17 for her spending from January 2008 – April 2009. Although the information request specifically asked for “Francisca Sanchez’s expenses paid for by SFUSD since November 2007,” the $26,527.17 does not include charges Ms. Sanchez made on her SFUSD Diner’s Club card, which were also considerable. Ms. Sanchez attended numerous out-of-town conferences with the commensurate associated charges. SFUSD paid for her valet parking and baggage handling. SFUSD paid 240 dollars for her 49er souvenirs and Godiva chocolates. SFUSD paid 120 dollars for a briefcase with wheels for her. SFUSD paid for tote bags she purchased at hotel gift shops “to hold her conference materials”. SFUSD paid for her room service calls for steaks, salads, appetizers, desserts, and multiple sodas, sodas ironically paid for during SFUSD’s “soda free summer”.

Another SFUSD administrator got reimbursed $2,740.70, roughly one-tenth the amount, for the same time period, January 2008 – April 2009. He went to a few conferences. He would take BART to the airport. He’d take shuttle buses instead of taxis. Instead of calling room service, he’d grab a sandwich and milk from a nearby deli and take it to his room.

Who, do you think, is more respectful and deserving of the public’s trust?

Is there no oversight? How can purchases of 49er items and chocolates be an appropriate use of taxpayer money? Are there no guidelines? How can administrators justify going to so many conferences? Are there no limits? How can SFUSD defend staff retreats at the Claremont Spa and Resort when school site budgets are being cut to the bone?

These are dire times for school funding in California. SFUSD administrators must start taking their fiduciary responsibilities seriously and stop their excessive expenditures.

Katy Franklin is the mother of a 4th grade student who attends Creative Arts Charter School and vice-chair of SFUSD’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education.

Filed under: Archive

Translate »