Friday, November 09, 2007

School squanders $50,000 contribution

Corruption and no accountability, I certainly wouldn't send funds to this school:

As Coolidge High slashed its budget for teachers and supplies in spring 2003, the struggling school received a welcome infusion of cash from one of its biggest benefactors. The AOL Time Warner Foundation sent a check for $50,000 to hire a technology expert who would ensure that students had working computers.

The money went into Coolidge's student activity account, which enabled school administrators to use it to stage a gospel fundraiser. Fewer than 50 people attended.

Within months, almost all the money from the foundation was gone. School auditors later determined that Coolidge officials "misused and/or misappropriated" almost $47,000 of the grant.

Coolidge has a history of losing charitable contributions.

Science teacher Terry Nostrand raised $20,610 from the Tony Hawk Foundation and Project Learning Tree in 2003 to build a skateboarding park at the high school. She deposited the money into the student activity fund. When she tried to retrieve the money the following year, she "kept getting one story after another," Nostrand recalled. "Runaround, runaround, runaround."

Nostrand never did get answers about whether the money was stolen or lost to bad accounting. Auditors attempted to trace the money within the student account but declared the records "unauditable." The city had to repay the donors, and the skatepark eventually was built elsewhere.

AOL had been trying to help Coolidge students since 1998. The foundation had donated money for scholarships, equipped most of the classrooms with computers and printers and sent several large checks, records show.


In September 2004, school auditors asked the D.C. inspector general to investigate. Investigators confirmed the auditor's findings but closed the case without referring it to federal prosecutors. They reported that AOL "does not wish to operate in a punitive mode."
And I bet the kids still don't have a computer teacher. When you hear of schools not having enough money, you might want to remember this story.