SchoolPower President Kristin Winter (“SchoolPower Welcomes Financial Transparency” May 18) assures she’s “keeping overhead costs below industry standard.” But sustained success as a small town non-profit requires more transparency than posting tax returns and selective financial disclosures leaving large expenditures unexplained.
For example, it’s clever to a fault for SchoolPower to claim “yearly entertainment expenses from $100 to $500.” Expenses for events including entertainment average $75,000 annually, or $400,000 over the last five years. With some events netting out 25% or more less than gross, SchoolPower owes public user-friendly, informative reporting.
SchoolPower confirms executive director’s $75,000 salary range, approximately $375,000 over the last five years. Tax forms show salaries in $150,000 range, around $750,000 over five years. If additional $375,000 went to “three part-time employees” or other compensated services, the public deserves details.
SchoolPower claims “$752,695 to our schools last year.” With or without add-ons from the SchoolPower Endowment “rainy day” reserve, linkages between SchoolPower annual private grants and public school educational or budgetary policy demand far greater transparency.
For example, SchoolPower’s statement touts 2016 grant to “ensure our kids have a safety net through a social-emotional program,” after race/gender incidents at LBHS. Even though over-staffing and declining enrollment already led to reductions of staff and programs, SchoolPower “teamed” with superintendent to propose new central office senior staff director of “social learning” and two assistants.
Even with four psychologists – one for each campus – and eight school counselors already on staff, without validating the need the school board decided SchoolPower’s gift for “social learning” was an offer it could not refuse.
SchoolPower and the school board collaborated to counter bad publicity on race and gender diversity by politically leveraging a one-time $159,000 grant to hire new central office senior staff now costing taxpayers $400,000 annually.
SchoolPower’s website quotes our superintendent committing to continue still unproven social learning program costing at least $2 million if continued for five years. This adds to the perception SchoolPower enjoys more access and influence than average parents, citizens and taxpayers. Yet, SchoolPower annual donations have remained less than 1% of the $55 million the public pays for schools.
SchoolPower should consider focusing on community wide fundraising, supporting not just all families, but doing so equally without favoritism or purchased privilege. Finally, a two-year volunteer co-directors model, with competitively retained and compensated CPA under fiduciary duty to ensure accountability, is management strategy SchoolPower’s current president too readily dismissed.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach