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After-school Program Center of Controversy

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In recent weeks the KISD Board has been dealing with accusations that it has given preferential treatment to a local company owned and operated by district employees. The short answer to that allegation was given in a letter received on September 5, 2012 from the Texas Education Agency Division (TEA) of Financial Audits. {{more}}TEA was responding to an unsigned complaint that was sent to the State Auditor?s Office alleging preferential treatment towards district employees. The letter stated that ?Based on our review of the district?s written response, it appears that the district has addressed the allegations in the complaint. Therefore, this office has closed the complaint?. The letter went on to thank the ?district?s thorough review and prompt response.? The letter conclusion concurred with the district?s internal investigation by the school?s attorney. The letter from TEA is posted on the Kennedale ISD website. See the link at end of article.

The backstory for this accusation goes back nearly 20 years when a group of teachers at James Delaney Primary approached school administrators with a proposal to offer an afterschool program with teachers and school staff operating the program. The teachers would offer tutorials, supervise play time along with an afternoon snacks, and, collect and give to the district all fees collected from participating families. In return the district agreed to pay an hourly wage to the teachers and paraprofessionals who worked in the program. The district asked that the program called ?Fun Care? ensure that each member of the campus staff had the same opportunity to work in the program and that the program cover all of its operational expenses including payroll. Facility use agreements were made between the individual campus principals and Fun Care and not the district.

After a review in 2003 auditors recommended that the district review its payroll procedures on all campuses and programs to ensure that it was not violating overtime regulations. Along with this the district also needed to decide whether it wanted to operate a daycare program with all the regulations and responsibilities. The KISD Board of Trustees decided that it was in the school district?s best interest to end support for the in-district Fun Care program.

This is where the controversy began. Dr. Karen Furman, who started as a teacher at James Delaney Primary School but who now serves as KISD Associate Superintendent for Instructional Services, said that she was approached by Mr. Delaney, then Principal of Delaney Primary School, for her help. He did not want to lose what he felt was a good program. Dr. Furman along with Jan Cleere, who also who had worked at James Delaney Primary but who is now KISD Director of Assessment and Accountability, formed a for-profit after school care business with the sole purpose of servicing students and families in KISD. The program, called Imagination Zone or I-Zone, did not contract with the district to provide this service but only ask for facility use. At the time individual school campuses determined use agreements. This remained the case until 2009-2010 when all facilities usage request went through the central office.

This agreement became the issue. Did the district show preference to Imagination Zone by setting a low rental fee because Dr. Furman and Jan Cleere were employees of the district? Or did the district follow a tradition of offering low or no cost rental agreements to local groups who were providing services/programs to Kennedale students and their families? The TEA?s letter agreed with the District?s attorney who also investigated the allegations and determined that there were no violations or inappropriate actions.

But the allegations and resulting story in the Fort Worth Weekly has prompted the Board to schedule a public forum on the issue of rental fee for usage of school facilities by all groups. This will be a forum for the public to express their views. The Board will not respond but will gather information and opinions for consideration at the October Board meeting. The forum will be conducted on Wednesday, October 8th, 7 pm in the Kennedale High School Auditorium. It is open to all.

More information can be obtained by visiting the KISD website. http://www.kennedaleisd.net/Page/5518 A copy of the letter from TEA is available along with a letter from Superintendent Gary Dugger to the editor of the Fort Worth Weekly responding to the Weekly article. Also available under the tab ?Board? are video recordings of the last three board meeting at which this topic has been discussed and includes a response by Dr. Furman to the issue.

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