Friday, June 03, 2005

Administrative Buffoonery: Las Vegas Bling

Here in Middletown, California, (The name has been changed to protect my....) it is well-known that our district's administrative facilities have the latest in up-to-date office furnishings, computers, and other equipment. Even the carpeting is replaced every other year or so. This has been the case for over a decade, even though many classrooms are located in broken-down so-called "temporary" buildings. Worse, students must often share text books, sit in worn-out desks, and use bathroom facilities that are in serious need of repair.

However, when it comes to wasting spending money on well-appointed offices, the educrats who nest work in the Imperial County Office of Education are in a class all by themselves.

Or so I thought. It seems that down here in California's "Imperial" Valley, our local educrats are amateurs when it comes to wasting taxpayers' money on unnecessary amenities. In order to see really luxurious facilities,
we must travel to Las Vegas, Nevada:

The fourth floor of the Clark County School District's new $14.5 million administrative building has features any executive would desire.

It has large offices, a dining room, [six] tiled showers, upscale furniture and decorations, and even remote-controlled curtains in one lounge area.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia allowed the news media to look inside the building for the first time Tuesday, and even he admitted the fourth floor of the four-story building was a potential public relations problem. But Garcia said it's an anomaly and that the purchase is justified.

"The fourth floor [with five showers] is a little bit controversial. It was designed for executive suites. I wish we didn't have the fourth floor, but it's here," Garcia said in the foyer of the 66,645-square-foot-building on Sahara Avenue between Edmond Street and Decatur Boulevard.

Tuesday marked the first day the media was allowed by district officials to tour the building since the School Board approved the $14.5 million purchase on April 28.

The office was built in 1996. The purchase came with an estimated $500,000 worth of art and furniture.

The district had designated June 7 as the tour date, but moved the date up when reports and pictures of the building taken during an appraisal were published.

Garcia said changes in the building might be inevitable, though he doesn't expect to take its nicer amenities out. The taxpayers would not appreciate having to pay for that kind of remodeling, he said.

Poor little spoiled babies... Superintendent Garcia is bleating that he has a public relations problem. That's true. But he has a much larger problem on his hands. I believe that he, and others like him, have a priorities problem. Just take a look at this story from the May 24th edition of the Las Vegas Sun:

Hot classrooms and a broken air conditioning system at a North Las Vegas elementary school sent about 20 students to the nurse's office and then home early Monday.

While no students required medical treatment, the stale air made some uncomfortable, said Christine Posen, principal of Raul Elizondo Elementary School near Lone Mountain Road and Commerce Street.

It was the second consecutive day in which the National Weather Service had issued an excessive heat warning for the Las Vegas Valley as the thermometer topped out at 105 degrees Monday, and students in some classrooms had to sweat through the day.

Carrie Nunez, who has two children attending Elizondo, said she noticed the school building was warm at noon when she picked up her daughter from the morning kindergarten session. Nunez then went to check on her son in his first- grade classroom and saw that his cheeks were flushed.

Her daughter did not complain about the heat but her son, who was at the school for eight hours, did, Nunez said.

"If I would have known the air conditioning would be out all day I would have came and got him," said Nunez, who said she wished the school staff had called parents.

When the air conditioning was on the blink in the school's main building, staff set up portable fans and teachers gave students numerous breaks for trips to the bathroom and water fountains, Prosen said. The school's 18 portable classrooms were not affected by the outage.

To be fair, the district did repair the broken A.C. system fairly quickly. But that isn't the point.

The point is that many of Las Vegas's children attend classes in what some refer to as "portable" classrooms, and what others call "trailers."

Even though portables were designed for temporary use, in reality, they often become permanent fixtures at school sites around the country. At many campuses, (including the one where I teach) they have been in use for 20 years or more. Maintenance is often minimal, and many slowly deteriorate over the years. Most portables are small, and a visit to your local school will readily confirm that overcrowding is a serious problem.

Educrats like Garcia and countless others would do well to remember that they work for the parents, students, and taxpayers of their respective communities.

Garcia and his minions are ensconced in the lap of luxury while many of the community's children continue to be relegated (some might say condemned) to portable classrooms.

I think that a better administrative model would be for the administrators to work in portables, and for the students and teachers to be in the permanent buildings.

Both students and teachers deserve nothing less.

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