Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Work Worries

This is from an e-mail I recently sent to J. Marquis of .

A local "watchdog" committee has exposed all kinds of fraud and wrongdoing among the top administrators at the local Education Services District (ESD), the place where I work. Administrator #1, the fellow who has been managing our "alternative education" programs in La Grande and around the state (we have numerous branches) has apparently been monkeying with the numbers which get reported to the state regarding average daily student membership. The state gives out funds for each student reported. There has been misreporting of student numbers by #1 and his assistant to the tune of at least $400K, all Oregon taxpayers' money. That's not the worst of it... there was a state audit that revealed those abuses, and listed page after page of other corrupt practices including misspending of $750K per year!

The guy I did my school administrative practicum under, I'll call him #2, may have been skimming money from the ESD for years. He retired several years ago, but since then has been on a special contract as a "consultant", to the tune of $96K a year. He doesn't even live in this area anymore, from what I gather... The FBI is in on the investigations now.

None of this means I will be losing my job, at least not yet. The local school district contracts some special ed services through our ESD, including speech therapists (like me) and diagnosticians (people who do intelligence testing on students.) If I do get a "pink slip" it could be due to our ESD not being able to afford to pay us anymore after having to pay restitution to the state of Oregon for monies owed back... and the local school district would then most likely hire me and the other speech therapists, along with the diagnosticians.

Needless to say, the school district is furious with the ESD and may seek to terminate its services contract ASAP. If I do get hired as a school district employee, it will chop out around $400 a month from my take-home pay, possibly necessitating me working up to a month out-of-town next summer for an on-call speech therapy agency to make up for lost wages (the school district contract is stingy compared to the ESD contract I'm currently on.)

During the past week, the local watchdog group succeeded in getting rid of #1 and his assistant, #2, and the ESD superintendent. The group is also trying to get some ESD board members recalled. Their group includes a number of people who used to work for the ESD and who have axes to grind, mostly with #2. #2 had some affairs which involved committee members, and there been some expensive sexual harrassment settlements. The board members should probably be gotten rid of as well, either for knowingly approving of the ESD administrators' illegal moves, or for being ignorant of what was going on.

As I see it, the problem now is that the watchdog group plans to run their own candidates in an election once they get the board positions vacated through the recall... and then who knows what they will do next... once foaming-at-the-mouth types get a taste of power, things can get really ugly. I fear they may go after our ESD employee contract, or start attacking individual employees. SO... I'm pretty anxious to take the monthly pay cut and sign on with the local school district, and get off the sinking ship.

What I'm hoping for is for our ESD to be assimilated by another ESD based 50 miles from here. That ESD has a good reputation, and I wouldn't take such a pay cut. Any way one looks at all this, it's a damned shame... because it's the kids we serve that suffer the most. And I don't think I should be sweating about this a whole lot. When I think about how many people in our country are unemployed... I'm just glad I still have a job. While I still have one, I will continue to enjoy it as I have for the last 15 years.


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