Thursday, September 17, 2009

East Side Union HSD gave over $80,000 to ex-San Jose councilwoman--and got little in return

Former San Jose councilwoman Cindy Chavez

East Side Union High School District hired ex-San Jose councilwoman to start an education foundation
By Dana Hull
Posted: 09/15/2009
When East Side Union High School District trustees wanted to start an education foundation to raise much-needed funds, they turned to Cindy Chavez, a former San Jose councilwoman with charisma as vast as her Rolodex.

The school district paid Chavez a total of $79,000 in consulting fees, plus an additional $5,572 to its law firm to establish the foundation's non-profit status.

But two years later, the foundation has no Web site, few board members and just $4,470 in its bank account.

The revelations come as the sprawling 26,000-student district endures an audit of its finances and an independent investigation into Superintendent Bob Nunez's spending habits. Paying an outside consultant sharply contrasts with how most school foundations get started — with parents and community leaders volunteering time and expertise. That's the grass-roots approach "Save Our Sports" used to raise $115,000; the East Side parent group bypassed the foundation altogether when it felt the foundation was too ineffective to rely on.

"I am very concerned that $85,000 has been spent on a foundation that is bogus as far as I'm concerned," said board president Patricia Martinez-Roach, who was not on the board when Chavez was hired in 2007. "This whole thing was a big mistake. The board should never have tried to set up a foundation by using district money. Maybe it was well intentioned, but it stinks."

Earlier this spring — as the district laid off teachers and staffers and scrambled to save sports —Martinez-Roach said she was shocked to discover the foundation did not even have a bank account. (A bank account was opened in June of this year.)...

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