Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A muddy mess on the river

Education Week highlights the problems in the Memphis School district in an article titled "Memphis district reels from operation woes". It's gonna make MNPS look good in comparison, to be sure. Highlights, err lowlights, include:

In the past few months, the district has been contending with official probes of how school construction contracts were won and how the food-services division was managed, and with mounting questions about lucrative, no-bid contracts awarded to busing companies.

As questions swirled about Memphis school construction projects, an internal audit found that the director of the district’s Central Nutrition Center had wasted $3.6 million in 15 months by over-ordering and then dumping 243 tons of spoiled beef patties, chicken nuggets, and other food, and buying expensive furniture and satellite television for the department’s offices.

Ms. [Carol R.] Johnson [who left in August], now the superintendent of the 57,000-student Boston schools, defended the Memphis district’s management during her tenure. She noted that more and more students were scoring at or above the proficient level on state tests even as she cut tens of millions of dollars from the budget, making the district’s fiscal operations more efficient.

And my very favorite quote:
“Memphis will be an attractive option for lots of good candidates,” Mr. [Michael] Casserly [the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools] said. “Nobody comes into these jobs thinking that everything is fixed before they get there.”
No, but no one jumps at the chance to clean up this mess. Ms. Johnson is currently the secretary/treasurer of the council of the Great City Schools. Looks like he's got her back. Nashville BOE member George Thompson is the immediate past chair of this same organization.

I hear General Honore (he of New Orleans clean up and "stuck on stupid" fame) is available.

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