Friday, July 08, 2005

Administrative Bling: The Virginia Version

There are 45 public schools in Loudoun County, Virginia. The Washington Post (email: registermeister [at] password: nooope) is now reporting that school officials are proud of their brand new $26 million administrative center:

The new headquarters has 23 conference rooms, two staff break rooms on each floor and a top-floor library with floor-to-ceiling windows. Inset on the building's brick facade is a nine-foot color replica of the school system's seal. The School Board meeting room, now a converted gym in Leesburg, will be a high-ceilinged auditorium with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and a seating capacity of 760.

Those kind of details have led to complaints about the cost. Questions also have been raised about a 2001 decision by the Board of Supervisors to finance the project without a voter referendum. In 1999, voters turned down funding for an expansion of the current headquarters.

"The size is enormous," said Donna Fortier, who is on the board of a nearby Ashburn homeowners association. "My understanding is they're looking to bring in the departments so they're not scattered. That makes complete sense to me. But that has some residents angry, that our tax dollars are being spent on this huge, gargantuan building."

Currently, the administrative apparatus of Loudoun County's public schools is situated in a converted school that was built in 1925, as well as at several satellite locations. (Some of which will likely not be closed.)

We will concede that perhaps the administrators needed some space; maybe they should've bought some trailers portable classrooms and used those as offices. (And yes, I did try to discover if any of the county's students are in portables. It's highly likely, but I have no evidence....)

The problem that we have with this whole thing is that the voters of Loudoun County made their intentions clear in 1999 when they collectively said "no!" to spending tax dollars on expanded administrative accommodations.

Worse, instead of putting the $26 million dollar question to the voters again, the Board of Supervisors sidestepped the voters altogether by financing the project without a referendum.

My guess is that Superintendent Dr. Edgar B. Hatrick persuaded the
Governing Board and the County Board of Supervisors to take this course of action by making what is known as an "administrative recommendation," to both bodies.

I just wonder if that $26 million could've been better spent helping kids...
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