Any way you slice it or dice it, the Department of Education's finances just aren't adding up.
Last week Department of Education officials said they needed 4.7 million dollars to avoid the shutdown of schools and last night that figure jumped to more than $5 million dollars as the department's financial fiasco was presented to the Education Policy Board during an emergency meeting.
But this morning that figure changed yet again-this time to $1.2 million.
Board Chairman Joe San Agustin said "We just want accountability. The board wants the numbers shown. Just give us the reality and we'll move on from there". Monday night's emergency education policy board meeting was supposed to be an opportunity for the board to get the whole picture of DOE's current financial situation, a meeting which the department had several days to prepare for. However, its a whole day after the meeting and board members are still struggling to get straight answers. Last night the board was under the impression that gov felix Camacho had used $4 million from the territorial education fund to pay for fines for delaying the closing of the ordot dump, and then failed to pay it back. In response, the Board passed a resolution asking the Legislature and the Governor for more than $5 million for the Department of Education to prevent the closure of schools.
This morning however San Agustin says he received a call from DOE Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood saying the numbers had changed again. "Last night it was noted that we had as much as four million seventy six thousand that should be returned to us so that was used by the board to create a resolution but also at the same time we found out this morning that that four million had already been given to the department of education".
The board says that closing schools is a last resort, and that they want to avoid dipping into bond proceeds designated for capital improvement projects. But it's difficult to move forward on any decision because the board isn't getting clear and solid information about the department's finances.
This ordeal has made one thing painfully clear to San Agustin - that there needs to be more accountability within the department of education.
"There's disappintment because we gave them notice that we were going to have a special meeting. Show us the books. There should have been no holds. Show us everything. When any of the board members ask like about the four million dollars they should have been able to react by going back to the books because we stayed there for five hours we would have been willing to stay additional hours".