Students Pay to Play While District Officials Get Free Meals

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    "Anytime a district decides athletics needs to be cut, there are some serious issues with how the books are managed."  Turns out Mount Pleasant High School Boosters President Patricia Carrillo may have been right when she said that to the San Jose Mercury News. A new audit by the Santa Clara County Office of Education calls into question tens of thousands of dollars in spending by officials in the East Side Union High School District, including the district Superintendent.

    The report comes just weeks after the school board voted to make athletes "donate" $200 in order to play next school year. The district made headlines earlier this year when it announced it was thinking about cutting school sports all together because there simply wasn't enough cash. That issue was resolved last month with the stipulation that athletes contribute to the cause. The money is supposed to help make up the $1 million needed to keep kids on the playing field. But could at least some of that money been found elsewhere?

    The district audit shows in the past 17 months, more than $10,000 of charges on district credit cards came with no receipts or explainations. Charges included airfare, meals, and lodging. District Superintendent Bob Nunez says about 25 people had access to the card, but only he and Associate Superintendent Jerry Kurr had cards readily available. Everyone else had to ask permission. It's worth noting, the district did cancel the card and all other ones in December and now employees need to present receipts if they need reimbursement.

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    Other issues that caught the eye of auditors include the fact that the district paid a few companies more than once for the same work and that Nunez's son happened to work for a major contractor for the district. There are also questions about Nunez's vacation time. In 2007, he was paid more than $27,000 for vacation days due to him that he reportedly did not take.

    The Santa Clara County Office of Education is recommending the state get involved and look into district spending and financial controls. The Merc says this isn't the district's first infraction. In 2004, trustee credit cards were cancelled when the paper questioned charges for cell phones, travel and computers. That triggered a state investigation that ultimately determined the district needed an internal auditor. ESUHSD has saved money on that salary for more than a year, since the Auditor Bill Jakel retired.

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