S.F. school officials, including Superintendent Carlos Garcia, received warnings that senior administrators in charge of after
school programs might be mishandling millions of dollars in district
money. The warnings started as early as five years ago, calling into
question whether the scandal could have been averted, as well as the
possibility that the superintendent and school board were complicit.
Former Deputy Superintendent, Trish Bascom, had been in charge of the Student Support Services Department, and is
the main suspect in the scandal. Her department was responsible for
contracting with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that provide after
school support for students and had an annual budget of $20 million.
She is accused of diverting money earmarked for CBOs to her cronies. For
example, money that had been allocated to the YMCA was reallocated to a
front group, Bay Area Community Resources, which made thousands of
dollars in payments to S.F. Unified administrators. The San Francisco
District Attorney has opened a criminal investigation.
Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza said that the district acted immediately upon hearing of the allegations.
However, executives of several CBOs that contract with the district say
they had complained for years about never receiving federal and state
money they were owed by the district and that they were suspicious of
corruption in Bascom’s department. Bascom’s attorney, Stuart Hanlon,
holds Superintendent Garcia and the school board responsible for giving
Bascom too much autonomy and looking the other way because they liked
Bascom’s ability to secure grants and fund her programs without dipping
into the general fund.
Garcia and School Board have tried to deflect blame entirely on Bascom and her accomplices. However, Bascom
should have been investigated five years ago, when rumors of her
corruption first surfaced. In times of economic hardship, administrators
should look first at their own bloated bureaucracies for corruption,
mismanagement and waste, before slashing programs and firing teachers.
Ultimately, the boss (in this case, the superintendent and board) is
responsible for everything that happens in an organization and they were
clearly asleep at the wheel.