With the recent financial crisis in the New Bedford Schools that forced the layoffs of dozens of teachers, I’m reminded of George Santayana’s quote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
” The history of financial mismanagement in the school department has lasted for well over a generation.
Consider the tenure of Steven Lamarche as the associate superintendent for business, who announced a surprise $2.75 million deficit in the fiscal 1996 budget.
It is rather shocking that he was ever in a position of overseeing tens of millions of dollars, because he lacked state certification as a business school manager or a graduate business degree. Prior to his employment in the business office in 1985, he was a fifth-grade classroom teacher.
He also revealed that for several years, purchase orders were documented after the fact and an outside auditor’s analysis found “virtually no documentation of the number of employees, their salaries or other expenses by the people responsible for the budget.” (The Standard-Times, March 7, 1997) The business manager hired to replace him certainly had the background and experience for the job.
Before the New Bedford Schools , Peter Roche had been the business manager for two other school districts and was a state-certified school business manager. The only problem was that he left New Bedford after just seven months on the job.
Why would such a qualified professional leave so quickly? With the sudden departure of Business Manager Lawrence Oliveira in 2011 after seven years on the job, you will never believe who was hired back as the interim school business manager.
Yes, the guy that never got certified and did purchase orders after the fact: Steven Lamarche.
With the hiring of Deborah Brown in August 2011, things were looking up, as she was perhaps the best qualified school business manager of the past 30 years.
She was a certified public accountant and had a MBA degree. Yet she only lasted 13 months, giving her two-week’s notice shortly after the beginning of her second school year.
Was she alarmed by the business practices of the department? Why did the two most qualified school business managers, Roche and Brown, have such short tenures? Steve Urbon’s column of Feb. 22, 2013 (“Looking under rocks in the School Department”), was revealing in what she may have encountered.
Would you believe payroll was being done by hand and in pencil?
Urbon’s column made no [...]