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Examiner Local Editorial: Dale still won't come clean on staffing reserve

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Jack Dale (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)

It was a simple request. On Feb. 21, Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz, who represents the Springfield District, asked school officials for a school-by-school list documenting where additional personnel from Fairfax County Public Schools' staffing reserve had been sent over the past four years. But after a 10-month email duel with Superintendent Jack Dale, Schultz is still waiting for the data.

The staffing reserve is a separate fund in the annual budget used to hire additional teachers whenever there's an unexpected surge in enrollment. But Dale informed Schultz that there are "no historical records" detailing exactly how the $11 million reserve had been allocated in the past. He couldn't even come up with a list of staffing reserve teachers during the current school year. And when The Washington Examiner called Dr. Phyllis Pajardo, assistant superintendent for human resources, to request the same information, she did not return our calls.

Dale "can't legitimately claim to any person on Planet Earth that he doesn't understand my question after telling me that he had misinterpreted my request for a school-by-school list and would have his staff put it together," a clearly exasperated Schultz told The Examiner.

With some schools reporting more than 30 students per class, Schultz said the data are needed to determine whether the additional teachers and aides hired from the staffing reserve are having any impact on student achievement. "How do you do that if you don't track where you spend it?" she asked. Good question. "This level of obfuscation and intentional obtuseness is unbelievable," she said. "If Dale can't keep track of how these funds are being spent, he's maintaining a slush fund. That's the only explanation."

In a May 30 letter to The Examiner, Dale denied that the staffing reserve is a multimillion-dollar "untracked pool of labor. We know exactly where staffing reserve personnel are assigned and how much is spent each year," he wrote. But if Dale already has this information, why isn't he giving it to a duly elected School Board member who requested it 10 months ago on behalf of Fairfax County taxpayers, including parents whose children are stuck in large classes, which the staffing reserve is supposedly there to prevent?

The School Board should not allow Dale to continue to duck this legitimate request. If he won't produce the requested documentation pronto, the board should bring in independent forensic auditors to do it for him.