Friday, January 14, 2011

SF Schools Rogues Gallery

Superintendent of San Francisco Schools, Carlos Garcia, has vowed to reform his administration and make accounting more transparent, in an attempt to clean up the image of SFUSD in the wake of the Trish Bascom embezzlement scandal. (Didn’t Arlene Ackerman do this already?) Garcia plans to tighten district accounting practices, hire an internal auditor and require competitive bids for future contracts with organizations running after school programs.

Bascom and four others in the Student Support Services Department are accused of diverting tens of thousands of dollars to their own personal bank accounts. Garcia continues to play dumb and to deflect all blame onto rogue elements in the district. “We were pretty shocked…” he said. “Our systems were good, but they could never ensure that our system could control someone doing something stupid.”

SFUSD has a long history of corruption and scandal reaching up to its highest echelons. Garcia should not only have been aware of this history, but actively working to destroy its remaining vestiges. Bascom, for example, had been an administrator since the Bill Rojas days. Considering how corrupt Rojas was, it would not be surprising to find out that Bascom picked up a few of her tricks from the expert himself. At the very least, Garcia had a responsibility to be aware of and to rectify the organizational defects that allowed Bascom to manage a department with a $20 million budget with nearly complete autonomy and virtually no oversight.

San Francisco’s Rogues Gallery
Of course Bascom’s scams are small potatoes compared to Rojas’. Under Rojas, millions of dollars of SFUSD funds were misspent, mismanaged or given away to cronies. Up to $68 million disappeared into the hands of nonteaching staff, including several who were indicted. He ultimately fled to Dallas, bringing with him several of his loyal criminal cronies, where he managed to continue his incompetence and corruption while evading the long arm of the law. William Coleman, who was Rojas’ No. 2 guy in SFUSD and continued in Rojas’ new administration in Dallas, pled guilty to charges of attempting to influence a grand jury. Coleman also agreed to testify against another former SFUSD administrator, Ruben Bohuchot, on multiple felony charges over Dallas dealings.

In contrast, SFUSD’s next superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, committed legal acts of corruption. Her first act was to finagle a sweet heart contract with SFUSD: $250,000 salary, plus a $2,000-a-month housing allowance and $375,000 severance package, payable even if she quit. She then pretended to clean up SFUSD, (obviously overlooking Bascom’s personal fiefdom), focusing more on stifling dissent and ruling with an iron fist. She spent $400,000 a year on a PR firm to put a positive spin on her autocratic and unpopular leadership. Then, when driven out of SFUSD by its progressive school board, she continued similar behavior in Philadelphia, where she gave a $7.5 million no bid contract to IBS Communications, a minority-owned company that had previously worked for the school district with cost overruns 12 times what they had originally estimated.

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