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School district news
This page includes current and past news about school districts and board elections throughout the United States.
On the same day, the board demoted Human Resources Director Doug Flowers. He has been offered a teaching contract for the upcoming school year.
They all also played a role in the botched attempt to silence Chief Financial Officer Beau Musser by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment. Musser helped blow the whistle on the secret stipends paid to administrators, 4,000 gallons of missing gasoline and other irregularities.
The state audit uncovered nearly $40 million in secret payments, mostly to administrators, going back to 2000.
By Abbey Smith
Burbank voters chose their youngest and first openly gay elected official in the primary election for the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education on February 24, 2015. Newcomer Steve Ferguson was elected to his first term on the board after running unsuccessfully for a seat in 2013. Incumbent Roberta Grande Reynolds was also re-elected to her seat. Both received at least 50 percent plus one of the total votes cast, allowing them to win outright in the primary without first advancing to the general election.
The winner of the third seat up for election will be determined in the general election on April 14, 2015. Candidates Armond Aghakhanian and Gregory Sousa will face each other in that election, as they received the third and fourth most votes, respectively, in the primary election, according to unofficial results from the Burbank City Clerk's Office. Candidates Vahe Hovanessian and Jesse Tangkhpanya were eliminated from the race, as they received the fewest votes.
The district said in a statement that the executive session vote was 6-0 to fire Czerwonka. Dan Colgan, the former board president and district superintendent, was absent.
The 6-0 vote is significant because the school board has been bitterly divided for the past year over Czerwonka’s controversial tenure.
The report criticized the district for no-bid contracts, lack of control of overtime and numerous violations of the Missouri Sunshine Act.
But the most damaging finding concerned the district’s now-infamous stipend program.
The audit discovered $25 million in secret payments, mostly to administrators, in the past eight years. It suggested that up to $40 million in stipends were handed out going back to 2000.
Schaaf also filed legislation that would drastically change St. Joseph Board of Education elections.
It would shorten school board terms from six years to three years. Schaaf says the longer terms foster a cozy relationship between the board and administrators and that leads to the lack of oversight uncovered by the state audit.
The bill would also allow St. Joseph voters to recall school board members.
"I think that it's pretty obvious that our school board is dysfunctional," says Schaaf.
Also, the St. Joseph News-Press called on the district to remove Human Resources Director Doug Flowers.
Flowers' administration of the district’s HR office was harshly criticized in the audit, including the fact that he had direct involvement in his wife's employment with the district.
The News-Press pointed out that Flowers was a major beneficiary of the district’s stipends. Last year, he received $39,700 in addition to his base salary of $96,500 for a total package of $136,210.
An editorial in the paper opined: "For that money, we should expect more than a divisive figure who has failed in many of the basic requirements of his position. The district needs competence and professionalism, now more than ever, in the critical role of fairly administering salary, benefits and policies in behalf of taxpayers and nearly 2,200 employees."
Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri. He's won a National News Emmy for investigative reporting, four National Headliner Awards and four Edward R. Murrow awards. Zeff has managed newsrooms in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Kansas City. He was educated at the University of Kansas.
Schweich, who’s running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2016, drew gasps from the audience of about 250 people gathered in a new elementary school that opened just this school year. He was talking about stipends unapproved and unknown to the school board.
"But also the total number of dollars involved in that stipend system," says Schweich. "$25 million over eight years. Maybe $40 million over 14 years. That’s a staggering amount of money."
The gasps grew louder when Schweich suggested the practice of secret stipends was traced back 14 years to 2000. Just last year, according to the audit, the district handed out $3.8 million in stipends.
Schweich rated the district’s performance as "poor." St. Joseph is the only Missouri school district to be rated that low by the state auditor’s office.
"I was shocked," says Tom Pankiewicz, who taught in the district for 30 years. "It was so devastating the amount of money that’s been wasted over the years. It’s sad."
Last year, the district cut $3 million from its budget. Some staff was laid off. Schweich suggested the district’s financial health would be better if the stipends didn’t exist. He called them a district slush fund.
All of the district’s current problems, including a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe and subpoenas from a federal grand jury in Kansas City, can be traced back to last spring when it was revealed that Superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka handed out $5,000 stipends to 54 top administrators without board approval.
Czerwonka quickly picked up a nickname: The Candy Man.
Those secret payments were uncovered by school board member Chris Danford, who called for Czerwonka to step down last year. Over the past year, she has said, she’s lost long-time friends because of her outspoken opposition to the stipends and other district procedures. She says the state audit report is a vindication.
"I have felt like I was the crazy red-head board member who was making a big deal about things because I’ve been treated that way," says Danford, after the audit was released.
- Another firing, more fallout in St. Joseph School District
- Board votes to fire St. Joseph School District superintendent
- Criminal investigation called for in wake of St. Joseph School District audit
- First openly gay official elected to Burbank school board, two candidates advance to April election
- Merely 16 candidates for 14 seats in Oklahoma school board elections
- New Mexico school board elections attract numerous educators as candidates
- New faces to join all of New Mexico's largest school district boards
- Rising competition for incumbents in Wisconsin's 2015 school board elections
- Secret tapes revealed, scathing audit expected in St. Joseph School District saga
- St. Joseph School District administrators placed on leave
- St. Joseph School District rated "poor" in financial audit
- Wisconsin school districts: 2014 in review and a 2015 election preview
- 2014 school board elections start quietly in Oklahoma
- 33 school board seats up for grabs in Delaware and West Virginia
- 90 candidates seek 38 seats in first round of May school board elections
- Arkansas school board challengers unseat three incumbents
- Arkansas school board elections largely unopposed
- Austin ISD heads to runoff for three seats
- Back to school in Missouri: With some teachers carrying guns?
- Big spending leads to big win for Pace in Austin ISD runoffs
- Brawling in Newark headlines New Jersey school board elections
- Challengers surprise school board incumbents in South Carolina, swipe open seats in North Dakota and show strength in Nevada
- Dallas race undecided, 16 incumbents defeated in Texas school board elections
- Dallas runoff school board election could be close in Texas
- Dallas school board runoff turns into David versus Goliath battle, Foreman beats well-funded Whatley for District 6 seat
- Ethics claims, growing pains define school board races in Nevada and North Dakota
- FBI narrows probe in St. Joseph stipend scandal
- Few surprises in Louisiana school board runoff results
- Florida and Alabama elections lead to runoffs, school boards to welcome newcomers
- Flurry of school board elections heading to ballots in Georgia, New York
- Former U.S. Vice President's endorsement not enough in Minnesota school board election
- Former state legislator and both incumbents win by big margins in Boise school board race
- Fourteen incumbents unseated in Tennessee school board elections
- Huntsville runoff, Alaskan general school board elections on Tuesday
- Incumbents dominate in two Alaska school board elections, Alabama runoff decided
- Incumbents dominate school board elections in Alaska, Wisconsin
- Incumbents falter in early May elections, governing majority shifts in Buffalo
- Incumbents fare well in Missouri, South Dakota and California school board elections
- Incumbents fare well in low-turnout Delaware and West Virginia school board races
- June 3 school board elections: Rivas gets revenge in Twin Rivers, primaries determine winners in Alabama and incumbents run unopposed in South Dakota
- Lingering Louisiana school board races to be decided in Dec. 6 runoff
- More than 100 candidates running in California, Missouri and South Dakota school board elections
- Newcomers win three-quarters of school board seats in Georgia runoff elections
- Nine incumbents unseated, seven districts to hold runoffs in Georgia and New York elections
- Oklahoma school board elections see low turnout, most uncontested
- Peoria protest vote boosts withdrawn school board candidate over incumbent
- Quiet elections on June 3 mean good odds for school board incumbents in Alabama, California and South Dakota
- School board election wrap-up: Did the Republican wave extend down the ballot?
- School board elections in Alaska and Wisconsin spark debates over budgets, academic performance
- School board primaries in Maryland and Utah reveal tensions over ethics, Common Core
- Seven candidates tangle for three seats on Boise school board
- Slates, incumbents prevail in New Jersey school board elections
- St. Joseph school board CFO deals with $2M shortfall, emotional return
- St. Joseph school board rescinds CFO suspension
- Stipend scandal erupts in St. Joseph, Missouri
- Texas school board elections draw large number of challengers
- Voter backlash down the ballot: Incumbency advantage drops in November's hottest school board races
- Voters in Maryland, Utah give thumbs up to incumbents in school board primaries
- $810 million bond measure divides Wake County school board candidates
- Alaska school board elections emphasize technology
- Alaska school board elections see majority of candidates unopposed
- Arkansas school board elections to address school safety, choice
- California March 5 elections are less than a day away: school board, local measures and mayoral elections
- California school board elections draw over 200 candidates
- Colorado school board elections focus on Amendment 66, school reform
- Decreased enrollment, school closures, and state takeover influencing Birmingham City School Board Elections
- Financial policies, education standards at stake in November school board elections
- Four incumbents ousted in Alabama school board elections
- Iowa school board elections focus on overcoming challenges
- Los Angeles Unified School District election attracts fierce competition; heads to the ballot in less than 5 days
- Low voter turnout in Arkansas school board elections
- Newcomers win majority of school board elections in Iowa
- Pennsylvania school boards to see large turnover
- School board election wrap-up: Incumbents re-elected overwhelmingly in November 5 elections
- School board elections review: Voters opt for experience over new blood in nation's largest school districts
- Struggling schools, PAC money influencing Tuscaloosa school board election
- Texas school board candidates concentrate on funding, maintaining accountability
- Wake County School Board voters elect Democratic majority, approve $810 million construction bond
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