OT?? 400 more teachers than OKd may be on job in Oakland

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400 More Teachers Than OKd May Be on Job in Oakland

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross Wednesday, February 9, 2000

BAY AREA -- State-appointed auditors have just opened another door in the Oakland schools' financial house of mirrors -- the possibility that the troubled district has 400 more teachers on the payroll than are in its budget.

School board president Dan Siegel acknowledged the discrepancy, saying: ``Nobody knows how many teachers are working for the district

--at least nobody knows for sure.''

The error -- which popped up in a certification process earlier this year -- suggests as much as $20 million in extra teacher costs, if you consider that a teacher earns $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

At this point, however, officials are not sure whether this is just a glitch on paper or a real problem that could add to the district's already serious budget woes.

``It's not the case that we are spending at a rate of millions more than we budgeted for,'' says Siegel. ``Whether it's 2,300 or 2,700, those teachers are getting paid every month, and we know how much they are getting paid.''

State auditors aren't quite so quick to agree.

``It's a significant discrepancy that might be able to be explained away as an inadvertent error or it might be a competency issue,'' says Tom Henry, head of the state audit team.

Whatever the case, the numbers somehow don't add up. And that is not good news for a district already facing the possibility of having to pay the state as much as $12 million for over-counting daily attendance figures and time spent bargaining with unions.

Auditors say the problem first came to light in late December when the district turned over its budget to the county for routine review.

At that point, the district revised the number of full-time equivalent teachers in its annual budget from 2,300 to 2,700.

The county then certified the district's finances but downgraded its ranking from ``positive'' to the next lowest rating of ``qualified.''

In other words, the county concluded that the district was facing a possible $6 million shortage by the end of the year and needed to fix its problems pronto.

Now, state and county auditors are preparing for a second review of the district's finances that could lead to the lowest ``negative'' rating and eventual state takeover of the district.

Henry said that report will be completed March 31, but his team of auditors hopes to have a better handle on the teacher figure within the next week or so.

In any event, everyone seems to agree that the error points to just how out of control the district's finances have become.

As Siegel himself said, ``It's startling in that it shows the level of incompetence that existed there (at the district) for God knows how long.''

SUPER PAY: Whatever the district's money problems, the school board is betting top dollar that new schools superintendent Dennis Chaconas can fix them.

Trustees say Chaconas verbally committed himself to a three-year contract that will be on par with what Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb makes. That would be a base pay in the neighborhood of $180,000

--$35,000 more than Carole Quan earned in her final year as the district's superintendent. (Although it's roughly the same as San Francisco Schools Superintendent Bill Rojas was earning when he left for Dallas.)

But that's just for openers.

While lawyers yesterday were still hashing out details of the deal, if it looks anything like Bobb's contract, it's got a few perks. Such as:

-- A $9,000-a-year auto allowance.

-- A $7,500-a-year payment into a deferred compensation plan.

-- Fully covered retirement and health benefits.

-- Four weeks of paid vacation and two weeks of executive management leave each year.

Plus, Bobb received a low-interest $400,000 house loan and $30,000 in moving costs.

Moving costs, however, shouldn't be an issue; Chaconas already lives in Oakland.

``The city and school lawyers costed it out, and it just seemed to make sense,'' says Siegel, who led the fight -- over the objections of Mayor Jerry Brown and state Sen. Don Perata -- to hire Chaconas.

Interestingly enough, Perata himself doesn't have a problem with the size of the contract given the difficulty of attracting a new superintendent to the district these days. ``I think it's in line with what we should expect to pay, and if Dennis gets the job done he'll be well worth it,'' he says.

On the other hand, given the district's financial woes, Perata's worried about guaranteeing the superintendent three years on the job.

``If all this is as bad as auditors indicate and there is no way to prevent a state takeover, then you have just bought this guy a couple years on the beach.''

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), February 10, 2000


Can't they just check with the DP department? The payroll system should tell them how many teachers are on staff!

On the other hand, if HR doesn't know...how can they be sure that they are staffing adequately? How do they know if their teaching load is balanced?

How do we expect them to teach the kids to count???

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), February 11, 2000.

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