Arbor Hts. parents question spending
A group of 13 parents is requesting an investigation of "potential misappropriation of funds" during the last four years at Arbor Heights Elementary School.
They sent a letter to Superintendent Raj Manhas and the Seattle Public Schools board of directors asking that the investigation include "all relevant accounts, including private funds and grants," the letter stated.
Parents asked that a report be completed in the next two months, before the 2005-2006 school year begins. Money used for anything other than its intended purpose should be reimbursed, the letter states.
The concern centers on the school principal, Carol Coram, who is a high-ranking international track and field judge. She's recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the worldwide governing body of track and field events, and has officiated at NCAA and world championship track meets as well as the Olympic Games.
To attend these events, Coram must occasionally take time off from her duties at Arbor Heights School. While Coram is away, a teacher takes over as acting principal, and a substitute teacher must be hired to teach the acting principal's class.
There has been concern that wages paid to the substitute teacher during Coram's absences have been paid out of a "transformation grant" awarded to Arbor Heights Elementary School from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That money is intended for professional development, training workshops, conferences, books and other items related to professional development.
Paying a substitute teacher while the principal pursues a hobby unrelated to elementary education appears to be beyond the parameters set down by the Gates Foundation to guide appropriate spending under the transformation grant.
Principal Coram had no comment about the issue.
"I really don't want to get into this. At all," Coram said when asked for comment last week.
According to minutes from a Feb. 2004 staff meeting, Coram said money to pay the substitute teacher comes out of the school budget.
At a meeting two months later, she said money to pay the substitute came from several sources, "including Dr. Coram's personal vacation days, foundation money, donations from the United Way that Dr. Coram has contributed from her paycheck and designated for that purpose, and sometimes it is a D.I. ("district-initiated" or supplied by the school district) sub," according minutes from that meeting.
Guidelines from the Gates Foundation for use of the transformation grant state that the money is supposed to be used to help eliminate "disproportionality" in schools. "Disproportionality" refers to the uneven academic achievement of students due to economic status and race.
Intended mostly for elementary and middle schools. transformation grants provide an average of $300 for every student in the school over a five-year period.
The Gates Foundation also lists "substitute costs for attendance at workshops, planning and collaboration, visitations, etc." Further, the money can be used to pay for "adult learning time" and "professional development."
Seattle Public Schools officials had no comment about the situation because it's considered a personnel matter and is therefore private.
Tim St. Clair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 932-0300.