Community leaders held a press conference Tuesday at the Salt Lake City School District Office, where they called for Utah State Auditor John Dougall to conduct a performance and financial audit of the Salt Lake City School District. The group alleges that the school board’s leadership has forsaken their authority by refusing to allow the board to take open and transparent action in regard to finances, employment, contracts, and state grants.
“Over the past two years, the community has repeatedly called upon Board President, Heather Bennett, and Vice President Tiffany Sandberg to honor and respect the authority invested in the Salt Lake City Board of Education by not interfering with that public body’s responsibility to deliberate and take action publicly and openly” Jeanetta Williams, President of the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP, said. Williams added that “The Board leadership continues to ignore the pleas of the community and in frustration; we now turn to the State Auditors Office,”
Utah Coalition of La Raza (UCLR) founder Archie Archuleta and Utah GOP Chair James Evans, who both sit on the Salt Lake City School District’s Equity Leadership Team, also spoke. “We ask that Auditor John Dougall help our School Board reclaim its dignity and assume its rightful place as guardians of our children’s education,” Archuleta said. Archuleta believes that, under the watch of current board leaders, the district is being run as “an autocracy where the school administration is permitted to maneuver in secrecy, operate by abuses of power, cronyism, nepotism, and discrimination.”
“The call for this audit should in no way diminish the great work of our teachers and local school administrators who should be proud of what they are able to accomplish despite the failed leadership at the top. This request to Auditor John Dougall is about failed Board leadership which includes the top administrators in the District office,” said Evans.
“The community and leaders of the west side of Salt Lake City have been raising concerns of questionable practices and lack of transparency at the Salt Lake School District offices, for the last couple of years. The concerns of the community have been ignored; a need for an audit is timely and can provide specific recommendations,” said Senator Luz Escamilla (Democrat – Salt Lake City). “Transparency and openness are critical in the efficiency and effectiveness of our Government.”
In a joint statement, Representatives Sandra Hollins (Democrat – Salt Lake City) and Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City) emphasized the importance of equity and transparency in all board dealings. “There isn’t a school board that exists today that can effectively function without transparency. The board has been operating in the dark, without full knowledge of what is going on in the district and in the schools. We cannot give our children the education that they deserve, that they need, when the highest administrators, the board members, refuse to see the problems that are right in front of them,” said Hollins.
“We represent a unique district where children of color are the majority. We cannot administer programs to the most important people in our state, our children, if we are not uniquely keyed into their needs. Equity is important in our schools and needs to be reflected in the way that the governing body goes about doing its business. If it isn’t a priority to our school board, it cannot be a priority to our schools,” concluded Romero.