Why I referred information to the Commonwealth's Attorney's office pertaining to VB Superintendent Aaron Spence
In March of 2019, I referred a matter to the Commonwealth's Attorney's office because I felt there may have been a violation of law. Recently, someone requested a copy of all of my e-mails on this matter and that information is being provided. So, I want to summarize what is in the e-mails and make the public aware.
First, I believe the VA Beach School Board is one of the most ineffective and dysfunctional organizations of which I have ever been involved. The leadership doesn't lead and those of us who try to lead and ask questions are censored.
I strongly felt that laws had been violated when I saw evidence that Dr Spence was being paid by VBCPS to attend ERDI conferences and also accepted payment from ERDI. The law states § 2.2-3103. Prohibited conduct: No officer or employee of a state or local governmental or advisory agency shall: 1. Solicit or accept money or other thing of value for services performed within the scope of his official duties,
ERDI is a controversial organization in which Superintendents are paid to attend their conferences and edtech companies then pay tens of thousands of dollars to also attend these meetings and to meet in small groups with Superintendents. There has been controversy about this organization across the country
When I discovered that Dr Spence had also created a consulting business that was not known about by the school board, it really raised suspicion especially since he is required to have prior approval of the School Board for outside employment. I took an oath to uphold the law and if I felt laws were being broken, it could have been a violation of law for me to NOT report it to the proper authorities. The Commonwealth's Attorney's office determined that there wasn't enough information to open an investigation and they never asked for any additional documents.
On the dais last week, current School Board Chair Ms. Rye stated that there were no contract violations by the Superintendent and she said that is what the auditor determined. Ms. Weems, Ms. Hughes and I (not all 3 together) reviewed the audit document again last week with our auditor. The audit found that Dr Spence did NOT receive prior approval for paid outside activities, which is a contract violation. Dan Edwards stated he was aware that Dr Spence attended ERDI meetings but was not aware of his compensation for the events. The audit also found that Dr Spence was NOT compliant with his employment contract for paid outside activities in which he did not take annual leave but instead was being paid by the taxpayer. So it was completely wrong for Ms Rye to falsely accuse me of lying about the violations of the contract. In fact, because of Ms. Rye's statement, people are publicly stating that the audit cleared Dr Spence of all wrongdoing, which is absolutely false. I have asked Ms. Rye multiple times to correct her statements and she will not. The Board will NOT release the non-redacted audit report.
During the audit investigation Beverly Anderson (former school board chair) attempted to interfere in the investigation by contacting the auditor and demanded a meeting. I use the term “intimidation”. Anderson questioned the auditor about why the investigation was continuing, she wanted it to be finished. Also, during the investigation and before the investigation was completed, Dan Edwards (who is also the chair of the audit committee) discussed with the Superintendent to pay back money that the Superintendent should not have received and to pay back the professional leave time that he used instead of vacation time. Having discussions with the target of an investigation by the auditor while the investigation is still ongoing is absolutely improper. If a teacher was being investigated for wrongdoing, would a Board member contact the teacher to let them know and attempt for the teacher to make restitution before the completion of the investigation? I was removed from the audit committee shortly after the investigation, yet Anderson and Edwards continued in their positions.
I still do not understand why the Commonwealth's Attorney's office would not open an investigation into this matter, but I must accept their decision. However, it is also important to me to not allow Board members to publicly accuse me of lying as Ms Rye did last week. Watch this video at the 1 hr 8 minute mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT-WMST4n6I&feature=youtu.be
A special meeting took place yesterday for the School Board and public to receive the proposed budget recommendations. Here are few items that in the SEON:
1. A proposed 6.5% employee raise over 2 years (Governor proposed 3% but will not be funded by the state until the 2nd year.)
2. State is requiring a 1% increase in employer contributions toward VRS retirements which will cost the division $4.5 million.
3. Reversion funds (one time money-$4 million) will be used to pay for full day kindergarten.
4. Additional teachers for the ESL program-- There has been a 40% increase of non-english speaking students in Virginia Beach in 2 years.
5. A state mandate to eliminate waivers for class size at the Elementary level will require 38 new teaching positions ($2.9 million).
6. Student enrollment is down by 2,312 in the last 5 years and is predicted to continue to decline. (see chart)
The total SEON net budget of all funds for this year is $942,072,738.00 . This is an increase of $35,452,260.00 from last year.