How sad for the children of Pleasantville. How terribly sad.
Their school district has been in disarray for more than a decade.
Fifteen superintendents in 16 years. Board of Education members going to jail for taking bribes to award contracts. Board members accused of lying on applications to get free lunches for their children. Constant infighting and politicking. Nepotism. Cronyism. And even a superintendent who filed a police complaint accusing a board member of harassing her.
And now: A report by the Office of the State Auditor, which found yet more waste, mismanagement and a lack of oversight.
Ironically, some board members have said a state monitor, who has been in place since 2007, is part of the problem. Said Board President Darleen Bey-Blocker recently: "The monitor keeps overturning everything."
Apparently not often enough, however.
The state auditor found that in the 2011-12 school year, the district spent $2.9 million in salaries for 42 teachers who had no assigned students. (Granted, all districts have specialty teachers - art, music, English as a Second Language - but 42 is a lot.) The district spent $1.15 million on a mentor program that had almost three times as many mentors as student participants - and that was budgeted for $205,000. And our favorite: The board mistakenly accepted the high bid for a mold-remediation contract, thinking it was taking the low bid - which caused the board to spend $228,000 more than what was authorized for the work.
The auditor also found timesheet irregularities that have been referred to the Division of Criminal Justice.
The Pleasantville district has a budget of approximately $93 million, nearly 80 percent of which is provided by state aid. There are 700 employees - and 3,500 students, who are being cheated out of the education they deserve.
Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle wants to switch from an elected board to a board appointed by the mayor. An appointed board is no guarantee of better management - but it very well could be part of the answer here. A new full-time state monitor should also help.
Pleasantville is a low-income town with problems that go beyond its schools. But the solution to all of those problems begins with the education the city's young people receive. And right now, their school district is a travesty.