What can $298.50 buy for the classroom to support your child’s education?
It won’t buy anything in the Manteca Unified School District.
It was basically squandered on a non-school event arranged by trustee Sam Fant.
Perhaps that explains why teachers have to dig into their own pockets to buy Kleenex, binder paper, and other classroom supplies.
So what does the $298.50 represent?
On Dec. 1, 2014, Fant requested use of the Weston Ranch cafeteria for an awards banquet for the Weston Ranch youth football team. He also reserved use of a microphone and podium. Fant serves as vice president on the youth football board.
The date he was requesting was Saturday, Dec. 6.
You might want to note district policy for other non-profits and community groups that want to make use of school facilities requires insurance, payment, and other details to be turned in a week before a scheduled event takes place or else they don’t get to use them. As for reserving space a week out, it just doesn’t happen – unless, apparently, you are a trustee.
Four days later Fant cancelled the facilities reservation request on Friday, Dec. 5, at 4 p.m.
Then, surprise, surprise, nearly 200 people along with Fant show up on Dec. 6 expecting to use the cafeteria. The custodian who was nearing the end of his shift had been told by his bosses – which by the way aren’t individual board members – that the event had been canceled by the requesting party.
Perhaps assuming there was a mix-up or maybe because someone may have been throwing their weight around, the custodian opened the door to the cafeteria.
As required by school rules, he had to stay on campus. He ended up having to clean up and then lock up. The event and cleanup covered roughly 7.5 hours from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. And since district policy clearly states it bills in whole hours, the custodian filled out the proper time sheets and the generated invoice eventually was rounded up to 8 hours.
The only problem is the time sheet wasn’t authorized. And as an added bonus, the district didn’t receive rental money or even a copy of insurance rider for that specific event to be covered should someone have hurt themselves during the event and decided to sue the deep pockets which, by the way, isn’t the Weston Ranch Cougars Youth Football team or Fant. It’s the taxpayers of the Manteca Unified School District.
That bill reflected a cost of $477.60. That’s eight times the $15 per hour user fee, that’s eight times the $11.24 per hour charge for utility, and eight times the $33.46 per hour charge for custodial services.
An invoice was sent out Dec. 11, 2014, with a due date of Dec. 5, 2014.If it sounds backwards, it isn’t. It is a clear reflection of district policy that all rentals of facilities have to be paid in full before they can be used.
It wasn’t paid.
Staff was told by Fant it wasn’t owed.
Finally, after diligence on the part of district staff, Fant settled the bill on his terms some three months later. Meanwhile, Fant received three timely district payments of his $400 per month stipend for his service as a trustee
Fant only paid $179.10 for three hours plus a $25 permit processing fee.
Fant told staff the group only used it for three hours. Perhaps, but did they leave it spick and span and in turnkey condition? Does that mean he inferred the custodian was lying? Of course, these questions would never have been asked if school board members bothered to follow rules the school board through the administrative structure put in place for the rental of facilities.
That left the Weston Ranch High administration with no other choice but to eat $298.50 from their budget.
One wonders whether such spats between administrators and board members who view themselves as micro-managers could have led to the agreement that gave Principal Joe Fregoso a year’s salary after he steps down at the end of the current school year. Obviously, the public isn’t privy to the deal but such arrangements usually mean the district was able to protect its proverbial behind from potential legal action that someone thought had a lot of validity and could do a lot of financial damage. Oh well, $298.50 here and $120,000-plus there is a small price to pay for trustees who either don’t want to follow the rules or believe they don’t have to follow them.
The real bottom line is what could $120,298.50 – and who knows how much more that board member micro-managing and not following the rules is costing the district – buy for your kid’s classroom?
The district under Victoria Brunn, who has since taken on the duties of overseeing community facility rentals, is tightening up policies so everyone adheres to the requirement that all facilities are paid for upfront. Manteca Little League, Spreckels Little League and Northgate Little League for example, have always paid up front while youth football programs tend to pay after the fact.
Thanks to the Dec. 6 switcheroo use now, pay later is history.
That brings us to one last point.
Shouldn’t someone be asking what it says about a school trustee who reserves a facility then five days later cancels it telling the district that it has been called off and then shows up the next day with 200 people?
It was clearly a deliberate act as one simply doesn’t decide 17 hours after canceling an awards banquet not only to have it anyway but also contact everybody involved as well. Perhaps it was a flash mob event.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.