On April 20, the administration sent a warning to local school councils: If your budget is not submitted by the April 27 deadline, you may lose your right to approve it. While the administration cites a need to keep the budget process going, LSC advocates contend the directive is an attempt to usurp LSC powers.
Carlos Azcoitia, deputy chief education officer, sent the warning by email: “Failure to comply with [the April 27] deadline may result in submission of the plan to the Chief Executive Officer without Local School Council approval.”
In the view of the Rev. Zarina O’Hagin, director of the Lawyers’ School Reform Advisory Project, that would be “absolutely” against the law. O’Hagin acknowledges the importance of a deadline but suggests a different penalty for violating it: A delay in the availability of the money.
LSC advocates feared that principals might use the directive to circumvent their councils. They say that happened at Nettlehorst Elementary School, where the principal and council have been at odds.
Nettlehorst Principal Marjorie Adams repeatedly presented budgets to the LSC that did not balance, according to Peg Tomaszek, a parent who chairs the council’s budget committee. Tomaszek and Adams came to a budget agreement on April 18, and an LSC vote was scheduled for April 27. When that day came, however, Tomaszek says, Adams presented a budget she “had never seen before. … Mrs. Adams said, ‘See, if you don’t vote for this, I’ll submit mine.'”
Azcoitia says Adams was issued a warning and a principal mentor, former subdistrict superintendent Joan Ferris, was sent to Nettlehorst to iron out problems. Both she and Adams declined comment.
The Nettlehorst LSC put an amended budget together on May 11 and approved it with a super majority, Tomaszek reports. Azcoitia says this budget will be accepted if the LSC followed the correct process, which members say they did.
Though Azcoitia prefers to deal with such cases on an individual basis, Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), says the School Board should do a better job instructing principals how to maintain a time-line and meet deadlines.