(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)
What happens when government officials think no one is watching? Sometimes this:
Residents demanded answers at an emergency meeting in Lawndale Tuesdaynight after a series of reports revealed an excessive amount of compensation for the superintendent of the Centinela Valley Union High School District.
KCAL9’s Dave Bryan reports that Jose Fernandez’s total compensation last year was $663,000, all for running a district of three high schools with only about 6,500 students.
The school district also floated a loan of more than $900,000 for Fernandez at 2 percent interest over 40 years at a time when he had already declared bankruptcy, Bryan reported.
Perhaps he’s so well-paid because he runs such an efficient and effective organization?
Hawthorne High School teacher Caryn Charles said the district is giving lavish loans and huge salaries to the superintendent when she has to pay to buy paper for her students.
“It’s really embarrassing as a teacher that we don’t have any paper at our department at our school. With all due respect to all of you, but it’s embarrassing when I have to go to Office Depot and buy paper, and I read that other people don’t have to worry about things like that,” she said.
So how are public officials able to get away with this for so long?
Part of the problem is their timing, explained Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney. Centinela Valley elections are held in November of odd years, which means there are no state or national races on the ballot to attract attention and draw in more voters.
And small districts in large metropolitan areas are further challenged because they get limited media coverage, Pitney said. Residents can’t just turn on the TV or open up the newspaper to regularly find out what is going on.
“People just don’t have the access to information about what their locality is up to,” he said. “They don’t even know there is going to be an election.”
Naturally, in response to the citizens’ outrage upon discovering that the school board they had elected was squandering their hard-earned money, the Centinela Valley school board officials did the only responsible thing: they hired a media-relations consultant.
We’ll give Ron Swanson the last word on this story: