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Richmond Schools Exec Incompetent, Irresponsible, Board Member Says


Richmond Public Schools' harshest self-critic, board member Carol A.O. Wolf, has launched another stinging rebuke of the district's spending: that Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Tom Sheeran is inept at his job.

The criticism comes while parties to Richmond School Board's ADA settlement meet this week to discuss the school system's compliance -- or noncompliance.

That settlement calls for the schools to make "best efforts" to effect expensive repairs and upgrades to schools facilities to bring them into compliance with federal ADA guidelines. But no such improvements have been made since the agreement was reached last year.

In a July 29 e-mail to School Board members, central office administrators and the school system's lawyer, Wolf says she has "no confidence in [Deputy Superintendent for Finance Tom Sheeran's] abilities to be in charge of RPS finances."

Her criticism comes after a July 20 letter from Sheeran explaining his approval of a costly renovation and relocation project for the school system's central computer operations and information technology department. That project moved the IT department out of City Hall and into space in the school's Tech Center facility at 2020 Westwood Ave. at a cost of more than $540,000.

The School Board never voted to approve the move, prompting earlier criticism — and a call for a review of the process — from School Board member Keith West.

Sheeran defends the move in his letter, writing that School Board bylaws grant him the authority to approve expenditures and indicating that the adopted School Board budget provides a framework for such expenditures.

But Wolf says the expenditure was irresponsible and potentially illegal in light of the school system's failure to act on the terms of its ADA settlement agreement.

"If this were true, there would be no reason for a budget process," she writes. "Your action not only ignores the authority of this board, but also makes a mockery of the [ADA settlement agreement] our board made."

City Council approved a lease agreement last week that allows schools to continue occupying City Hall space at a yearly cost of $10, securing not only the offices currently occupied by schools administration, but also the facilities previously vacated with the relocation of the schools' IT department.

An earlier attempt by City Council to lease the space to schools for $1 a year was vetoed by Mayor Doug Wilder, who continues to maintain his authority in negotiating lease agreements of city facilities. S/b>

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