The monetary scandals of the Dallas Independent School District have been long-lived and devastating to a district already trying desperately to achieve student performance at the state mandated levels. But look no further than 15 miles down the road for the latest school money debacle. A recent TEA audit has reported that the Cleburne ISD has misused $367,000, or 44%, of the federal funds it received.
The 18 month-long audit produced of plethora of expenses out of line with the mandate of all school districts: education of children. The report includes a $908 meal at Ruth Cris Steakhouse in San Antonio for Damron and the twelve trustees of the Cleburne ISD School Board. That is almost four times the $22.50 a day per diem for meals set by the district under its Travel Policy. Additional charges include $5,000 for a district employees and community volunteers travel to Mexico and $14,000 for a trip to Vail, Colorado to attend a PEAK Learning Conference. The PEAK Corporation specializes not in educational training but management building strategies.
Unfortunately for the students of CISD, that is not the end of this misuse of school funds. This 162-page report only reflects an audit that only looked at 10% of the federal funds received. The state and local funds that constitute 90% of the school’s budge have not been audited yet.
This investigation would not have happened without the diligent work of local citizens interested in the prudent use of school funds. AccessCleburneISD has doggedly worked to expose the misuse of public funds to the public. Not all in Cleburne, however, seem to be in favor of holding the administration and school board accountable for the wasteful spending, and the website administrators have recently been the target of physical threats against them.
The fiduciary responsibility of school administrators and trustees should direct their decisions on where best to spend the taxpayers’ money to educate children. It appears that CISD may have forgotten their covenant with the children and the constituents.
Before the district released the TEA report, Superintendent Robert Damron was allowed to retire from his position effective July 2008. Why has he been given what amounts to a paid vacation? His status as an employee of Cleburne ISD until July will entitle him to a larger pension based on his last four years of service, Other long-time administrators seem to also be heading for the door before it swings shut on them.
If this were a company instead of a school, this would be called what it is --embezzlement, and those involved would be in jail and not be on a taxpayer paid vacation.