I was about 23 years old when I started traveling for work. When the opportunity was offered to me, a lowly computer technician, I reluctantly accepted because it meant I would receive a raise in salary and title. Afterwards, I was full of anxiety because I had a credit card but the limit on that card was hardly enough to book my first flight let alone pay for meals, rental car, etc.
I actually still know the number, from memory, for the American Express card I received from my employer before I had to book my first flight. I was issued a mobile phone, a credit card, and anything else I might need to spend 20+ days a month on the road. I was told that I would need to complete an expense report and treat the card as if it were my own money. If the card had a limit, I was unaware of it. I certainly never reached it and I had to purchase computers, networking gear, web cameras, and other tech related items for customers while in the field. I remember breaking down my breakfast based on my current location: Denny’s, Coco’s, Waffle House, or other greasy spoons locals told me to check out. Hotels were easy, Hilton, Marriot, or Holiday Inn and that all depended on the points I could accumulate. My rental car was always a Hertz because of the points and the in car GPS (before it was really a thing).
Everything I charged on that gold American Express card was a decision on whether I myself would buy the item if it were my money. The answer was always, yes. To this day I have a company expense account and card and have never had any of my expenses called in to question.
My stepson and my daughter are both students at El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills, CA. I could not be happier with the education and opportunity the kids receive there and we have plenty to compare it against. My daughter was a student at Canyon High School in Santa Clarita before we transferred here. Canyon was a great school and I find ELCO to be comparable if not better. My stepson was a student at Canoga Park High and ELCO is a different world comparatively. Better. Recently, there has been news about the principal at ELCO and his supposed misuse of school funds for personal travel and meals. I thought I would try to be objective and lay out my thoughts.
The school board has identified misuse and suspended the cards of some of the administrators. On Facebook, a woman said that we should not judge and we should let the school work out the details for fear of losing our charter. Another concerned person stated we should hold them accountable and send an email expressing our interests in an ethical resolution.
These things are rarely black and white. In my mind, these arguments are a lot like the other back and forths I see on Facebook. For example, illegal immigration is going to bankrupt our country. On the other side, illegals will bankrupt our working economy. If illegals leave, who will do the work no one wants to do? If all of the illegals stay they are going to use all of our social services we as good tax paying citizens pay for. Neither is actually true. It’s more gray than it is black and white. Something in the middle is more likely. Produce markets would suffer temporarily and the relief on our social services would most likely be negligible if all illegals were sent home.
Back to the El Camino Real story. By all means, the principal was allowed to operate with autonomy and was not held accountable by anyone on the school board. I have sat on the Board of Directors a couple of times and one of the very things usually discussed is the budget. Why did none of the Board members call this to the carpet before it became a Daily News article? My guess is that it was beneficial to the school, its staff, and it’s students. Or… at least it was considered to be. I also believe that the principal probably used the card just like I did, like it was his money. I have no doubt that he would see no issue in spending those amounts for dinner if it were his personal money. I hope I am right because then at least the reason is understandable.
Assuming this is true, maybe the folks should get their cards back and a system of checks and balances should be put in place for accountability purposes. All expenses should be verified by a board member and the treasurer should be doing their level best to account for the money being spent for all purposes. That statement is most likely naive, but there are others who are more qualified than myself who will come up with accountability measures for the principal and his colleagues.
Lastly, if the principal is relieved of his duties, the school will not fall into ruin and become “just another LAUSD school”. He will be replaced by someone who has the education and social savvy to navigate the charter school world. Most of us will never notice the difference. Rarely is the worst outcome, the outcome. Please don’t take the worst possible outcome and make it the only outcome on either side. Most likely it’s somewhere in the middle.
The story is still developing but for now I will put my pitchfork back in the garage and wait it out.
Here are the articles and responses you should read.
The letter from the school about the impending story by the Daily News.
Here is the Daily News article