Use caution, district leaders: Even in a pandemic, there’s no immunity from financial missteps

Marguerite Roza, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Charges of financial blunders have taken out district leaders before. Think the pandemic inoculates leaders from that possible fate? Think again.

In fact, leaders may be at higher risk for accusations of financial missteps than normal, thanks to a perfect storm of pandemic-era conditions. District leaders are making hurried off-cycle spending decisions with little public deliberation, all when money is tight and staff and community tensions are high. Given the fast and furious nature of this moment, it’s easy to slip up. And where board members, teachers unions, or others in the community are at odds with leaders, any potential misstep can get magnified.

Because of the pandemic (and the availability of federal CARES funds), many districts have moved swiftly to sign hefty contracts for everything from laptops and hot spots to personal protective equipment, air purifiers, and building ventilation system upgrades. With districts competing against each other for limited supplies, some superintendents have had to commit to contractor bids on the spot or lose out altogether.