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KCUR reported about the St. Joseph School district’s troubles with DESE. Can anyone spot what the problem is in this story?

St. Joseph School District To Lose $2 Million In State Aid


The troubles for the St. Joseph, Mo., School District just keep getting deeper — and coming from unexpected directions.

The district is already under investigation by the FBI and the Missouri State Auditor. Now, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) says the district improperly charged the state for more than two dozen summer school classes….

More than half of the summer school courses the district submitted for reimbursement were not allowed by the state. DESE says it has found no other district with such an extensive list of disallowed programs…

Cooper [DESE] sent a letter to St. Joseph Superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka outlining the problems on Oct. 14…

“No one has seen this letter. Nor have they seen this list of things that are disallowed,” says Chris Danford [St. Joseph School Board member]…

Czerwonka, in a brief discussion of this issue at a meeting Monday with the St. Joseph Board of Education, said the district will lose about $2 million in state funding…

“We immediately began conversations with DESE in regards to their concerns upon receipt of the letter. We also began to formulate a plan with our staff to submit to the Office of Quality Schools to address those concerns,” Superintendent Fred Czerwonka said in the statement.

Do you see the major problem? The district is so out of control the FBI was brought in? A problem yes, but not the biggest one. The district will lose $2 million from the state? Can’t agree that that is not a loss, but it’s still not the big problem.

The problem is that a letter was sent to the Superintendent who did not share it with the Board and attempted to hide, I mean solve, the problem on his own with just administrative staff. It was only after the loss of some serious money was threatened that he even informed the board of the problem. The district will now submit a plan to DESE for how they will correct this problem and, again, the story says the School Board never had input to the plan nor signed off on it before its submission to the state.

The Superintendent is the employee of the School Board and is not ultimately responsible for the district. At no time did DESE communicate directly with the person/people who are directly responsible for the district, the School Board President and members.

This is the perfect example of WHY it is so important to correct the chain of command in our local school districts.

A string of superintendents (Fox, Joplin, St. Joseph) have been found recently  hiding their improper if not illegal behavior from their bosses because the hierarchy of control has been turned on its head. There is true danger and serious financial consequences for districts who allow their Superintendents to run the district. You can’t fix it if you don’t know its broken.

Published December 19, 2014

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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