So what is the cutoff for incompetence? In Maria Goodloe-Johnson's case, apparently $1.8 million. That's the amount cited by the state auditor that was questionably and wastefully spent--maybe just plain ripped-off--right under the Seattle schools superintendent's nose. The phony contracting went on for two years, ending last fall, and is expected to lead to Goodloe-Johnson's firing by the school board today. But what if the cutoff were, say, $500,000? We might not be having this discussion.
A half-million is how much the same state auditor said in 2009 had been stolen in school supplies and equipment, also under the supe's watch. The thefts came during the years prior to the contract follies, and, theoretically, if Goodloe-Johnson had been fired and replaced then, a new supe might have noticed the now-questioned spending for work that wasn't done.
As SW reported in 2009:
About $100,000 in equipment and electronics and as much as $500,000 worth of copper wiring and other assets are missing or were stolen from area schools, according to the State Auditor's Office. Though district officials dispute the numbers, they're unable to determine exactly what's gone or put a precise value on the loss. A year after the copper wiring was stolen, the district says the cost is still "unknown."
Incredibly, none of the missing assets were reported to the state, as required by law. Some of the thefts were reported to police, the district said, but due to the staggered method the schools use to inventory public assets, there was no way to tell what might be missing. Additionally, the district could not say whether it even filed an insurance claim for the stolen wire.
What did the school board do about this back then? Nothing. Members had rushed through a 10 percent raise for Goodloe-Johnson a year earlier, and holding her accountable for the theft scandal would have made them look incompetent, too.
Firing her then might have saved the district a couple million and a lot of agony. But, as the anguished board now prepares to lower the boom, it can finally say it is doing the right thing. In fact, it's a great opportunity for the board to right another wrong: Once Goodloe-Johnson is dispatched, the board should fire itself en masse. Redemption all around.