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Amid Turmoil, City Schools Finance Officer Resigns

Richmond Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Sheeran tendered his resignation during Monday's School Board meeting, in what could be the first in a succession of top-level personnel reorganizations of the city school administration.

Sheeran, who has become a polarizing figure on School Superintendent Deborah Jewell-Sherman's staff, was alternately praised and criticized for his decision to move the School Board's information technology department out of City Hall this past summer.

Some School Board members have spent the past two weeks putting pressure on Jewell-Sherman to take action against Sheeran. Various board members confirmed Sheeran's departure.

The decision to move IT operations in July averted potentially disastrous consequences on Sept. 21, when the Wilder administration sent movers to abruptly clear School Board and the schools administration from City Hall. Sheeran at the time took credit for foreseeing Wilder's planned strike on School Board offices.

But the IT move also cost in excess of $700,000, according to an internal School Board audit conducted after School Board members criticized the move as too costly and as potentially being outside of the Sheeran's authority to authorize. The aborted city administration move of School Board offices cost $318,099.91

The author of the audit report, Schools auditor Debra Johns, also has been criticized by the board and the city's auditor, Umesh Dalal, for failing to answer key questions about the move's expenses and its authorization. The report also acknowledged that it was unable to account for all IT move costs billed through the school system's plant services department, which coordinated a portion of the move.

Both privately and publicly various School Board members have expressed concerns over Sheeran's management, and some had hinted strongly that he needed to go in order for them to maintain their confidence in Jewell-Sherman's leadership.

Sheeran's resignation, effective March 31, comes amid Jewell-Sherman's announcement of sweeping changes at the school system's administrative level.

School Board member Keith West, who has been vocal about the need for such a reorganization, says that he's pleased with the announcement, but "nobody really knows what it means; only the superintendent knows."

In the end, West says he's "hopeful [that]reorganizing operations and finance … better reflect our needs."

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