Leadership Academy Audit Scandal

Aug 3, 2017 by

At the Department of Education, no two consecutive days are alike. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they invest in boondoggle. Tuesday and Thursdays they throw money down rat-holes. Weekends are for rest and relaxation. We’re talking senior management.

The stampede of scandals normally slackens over the summer, but not this time. The latest of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s closely-spaced explosive audits targets the notorious NYC Leadership Academy.

The primary mission of the Leadership Academy is to train eager-beaver, on-the-make principals ( usually under 30 with little or no teaching experience) how to badger and drive senior, independent-minded and union-sympathizing teachers into premature retirement. After successful completion of this principal-midwifing institution, graduates rarely know the first thing about how to program and budget a school or human relations.

Who are these Leadership Academy alumni? What are they like?

Most of the principals profiled in front-page investigative reports are spawn of the Academy. Sometimes, though not exclusively, for embezzlement, theft of service, deviance and gross incompetence. The DOE almost always looks the other way or makes excuses for them. They are substantially immune to removal, even for criminality.

The Leadership Academy’s instructors are mostly retired principals, enhancing their stratospheric pensions by being retained as “coaches”, for which they are paid $183 an hour and are, according to the Comptroller’s audit,apparently on their own without the burden of oversight. It’s an “honor system” that never would be extended to ordinary employees.

But the iniquity of the Leadership Academy was not within the purview of Comptroller Stringer’s audit, which was focused on “waste, fraud and abuse” in the Leadership Academy’s contracts from the city, which have amounted to over $100 million.

For instance, more than $45 million was shelled out to these euphemistically-titled “coaches, but no documentation of their work product was submitted or kept: no dates, hours, sign-in sheets, receipts, progress reports or memos.

Only 2 percent of more than $559,000 worth of contracts for coaches at the Leadership Academy  was accounted for as required.

The president and CEO of the Leadership Academy, raked in $260,000 in 2015-6, so that explains her deafening silence when asked to clarify the strange going-on there. But she does not lack for ringing endorsements. Last month, Mayor DeBlasio proclaimed “NYC Leadership Academy Day” and Chancellor Farina lauded the Leadership Academy “for its tremendous work to prepare and support great school leaders.”

Such a mismatch between words and reality!

Too bad the comptroller can’t hire some teachers to be”flies on the wall” in their schools, and have them compile and forward to his office every actual incident of violence so that the comptroller could then compare the data with the official figures furnished by the DOE.  That would make another headline-grabbing audit, given that yesterday the mayor trumpet-blasted the avowal that school violence has dropped and critic blasted the mayor for his patently false numbers.

The representative of the school safety officers says that his members are disciplined and often transferred from their assignments if they disobey a principal’s order to ignore events or suppress reports of them. Offenses for which students may be arrested have been reduced, violations re-classified and the penalties preposterously watered-down so that  informal “warning cards” are issued instead of the imposition of reasonable punishment.

But that would be a audit for another news cycle. Already, after just a few days, the Leadership Academy story has faded and life will go on there as before.

The taxpayers wince as those getting over on them wink.

Ron Isaac

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