Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rule # 7; avoid conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof

Recently, the leadership of the APS held the
Administrators Conference on Education.

Information on exactly who attended is not readily available; although the district says the conference was attended by more than 400 district administrators; principals, assistant principals, and program directors.

The conference cost in the neighborhood of $62,500;
the equivalent of two new teacher salaries,or two new
portable classrooms for Susie Rayos Marmon E.S.

The costs were split among taxpayers, the APS Foundation, and a committee formed for the purpose of soliciting donations in support of the tri-annual ACE.

The APS Foundation apparently contributed $2,500. A quick look at their website reveals that they solicit donations in the name of professional development for teachers, eye exams and glasses for underprivileged students, tutoring, fine arts programs, middle school athletic programs, scholarships, and the 2nd Grade Reading Academy.

Administrative retreats at posh casino resorts are not specifically listed among the many worthy projects that they support.

20% of the conference was paid for by taxpayers; $12,500. Not a huge sum of money in a billion dollar budget; but equivalent to a quarter of the cost of the search for a new superintendent; a search which Board Member Mary Lee Martin says the district cannot afford.

The remaining 75%, $46,875 ,was contributed by "private businesses".

When asked if donors had to disclose whether or not they are APS vendors, APS Spokesperson Monica Armenta wrote; "no disclosure is needed on our part. Private businesses can donate what they’d like to anyone they care to support"

When asked if there had been any public announcement or notification of the conference, Ms. Armenta offered; "No public statement is needed. This is professional development."

What we are left with, is a semi-secret conference, paid for by donors who are not asked to disclose any business interest they might have in the District.

Why was the conference semi-secret?

Wasn't this a good opportunity for the district's half million dollar community communications staff to inform the community that administrators would be receiving professional development that was so worthwhile that over 400 administrators were each willing to drive over 400 miles to attend?

Or would it have been just too embarrassing, under the current circumstances, to admit that the conference was being held at the Inn of the Mountain Gods?

Why aren't donors expected to reveal potential conflicts of interest?

What if one of the donors was say; a roofing contractor that sells crappy roofs to the district at exorbitant prices?

I am not suggesting that any donor knowingly contributed money to support administrative drunkenness and debauchery at the most expensive casino resort in the state in order to incur favor during the vendor selection process.

There is no evidence to support any such claim.

But the circumstance do beg the question;
who would knowingly donate tens of thousands of dollars to underwrite an administrative soirée at the
Inn of the Mountain Gods; and why?

Further, circumstances beg the question;
if this is not the appearance of a conflict of interest;

...what is?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ms. Armenta offered; "No public statement is needed. This is professional development."

So, this professional development, was like the one in Las Vegas, did Al Hurricane come?
Maybe Garcia and PED should take a look.