Heads in the sand

It’s been three months since the Beaumont Independent School District sent 82 employees to New Orleans for the National Alliance of Black School Educators conference and all of the records have still not been reconciled properly or made available for inspection.

A review of several hundred pages of documents made available to The Examiner has raised serious questions about what is permitted and paid for on a school-sanctioned trip. Some BISD board members are calling the trip an “all-expenses-paid vacation,” and that might be what it was.

The IRS has strict rules governing travel and allowable legitimate expenses; BISD could simply follow their lead, as it is quite generous yet controlled. Was the NABSE conference a way to reward certain employees in BISD? Did they get a free trip with no real benefit to be passed on to the children of BISD?

It would be nice to know the truth, but rather than sit down and discuss the specifics of why some BISD employees were reimbursed for airfare to New Orleans or why married employees in the district both claimed mileage but showed parking fees for a single car, BISD would rather duck and run.

As for the two individuals who flew, if they had a medical reason as to why they couldn’t ride in a car and their attendance at the event was crucial to the overall wellbeing of the students in BISD, then by all means their flights should be paid for. But we don’t know the answer because BISD doesn’t want to answer the tough questions, like were BISD employees allowed to bring spouses on the trip? It is obvious that some did. If so, who paid for their registration fees? The district still has not provided those records? Shouldn’t the list of fees paid for conference registration be available? After all, Superintendent Carrol Thomas is the outgoing president of the organization. Maybe the real reason so many BISD employees went on the trip was to stroke Thomas’ ego. If a reporter with limited time and resources can find these examples of mismanagement involving taxpayers’ money, why can’t BISD? Robert Zingelmann, the director of business and finance, has a master’s degree in business administration from Texas State University and a staff of trained professionals that should be able to detect the irregularities pointed out in The Examiner’s lead story. If he or his staff has decided to turn a blind eye to wasteful spending and possible theft of taxpayer money, then someone else should have that job.