Schools' Personnel System in Chaos: Official Says Errors Could Cost Millions

Article excerpt

More than $17 million in savings could be lost because the D.C. schools' personnel office has not completed the paperwork needed to fire more than 1,000 employees who were supposed to be off the payroll by Monday, according to the system's money manager.

Chief Financial Officer Abdusalam Omer wrote in a confidential memorandum obtained by The Washington Times that the entire system's 1997 spending plan set to start on Tuesday is in a state of chaos because of the personnel office's mismanagement.

D.C. public schools also failed to get 149 teachers and administrators on the payroll and have received time cards for 93 others who are entirely missing from personnel records, he said.

The schools also have 22 persons on the payroll who are listed as retired, which means they have received severance pay to which they should not have been entitled.

In the memo to Superintendent Franklin L. Smith, Mr. Omer suggested the schools chief should immediately hire a private agency to run the personnel office, implement a hiring freeze and commence an audit or else "further damage the fragile financial and personnel infrastructure of the entire system."

"It's a question of whether the personnel process is working the way it's supposed to," Mr. Omer said in an interview late yesterday. "The answer is no."

The D.C. Board of Education voted to fire 1,403 employees in May to save money, but the D.C. Payroll Office has received notice that only 343 of the positions were eliminated. It is not clear how many of the remaining employees were fired.

The school system has 10,600 employees.

The school system's $579 million budget begins on Oct. 1, the first day of the new fiscal year.

School system spokeswoman Beverly Lofton did not return repeated calls for comment on the situation yesterday.

Mr. Omer was appointed to oversee school finances on Aug. 5 by Anthony A. Williams, the city's independent chief financial officer, who answers to the federally mandated D.C. financial control board.

Among the problems cited by Mr. Omer in the memo:

* 105 teachers and 44 administrators will not receive paychecks on Tuesday because the personnel office did not complete the required paperwork. …