Residents of the north Denver metro area watched with great interest as KDVR FOX 31 conducted an ‘investigation’ into Adams 12 Five Star Schools’ finances and superintendent Chris Gdowski. On the surface it appears to be damning but it seems more likely this was gotcha journalism fed by union hate and disinformation.
Investigative reporter Josh Bernstein, a recent transplant to the state that can’t seem to hold a job for more than a couple of years, claims in a heart-wrenching piece that Adams 12 is cooking the books and parents are suffering as a result.
Tipped off by Gina Holub, a former internal auditor for the district, the report claims that the district’s budget misstated costs for salaries and benefits. She further claims that she was fired when she tried to bring the alleged accounting problems to her supervisors’ attention.
Backing up her claims is Professor James Sorensen of the University of Denver, an expert in accounting that has spent his professional career in academia. Fed part of the district’s books from Bernstein, Sorensen says that those working the books have questionable ethics.
Adams 12 Five Star School Board member Fred Schaefer and union president Dorian DeLong express outrage at the revelations.
In part two of the report, Bernstein hits Gdowski hard for having allowed his wife Carolyn to post ads for her real estate business on the district’s ‘Employee Marketplace.’ The online bulletin board is routinely used by employees to buy and sell products and merchandise and Bernstein thinks that Gdowski may have unfairly profited from the messages about his wife’s business.
That is a brief summary of the stories as presented by Bernstein on KDVR. You can watch the videos below.
So what does this mean? Do we have a bunch of crooks running our school district much like have run county government in recent decades?
Regular readers of these pages know that I am not always a fan of Adams 12. I have been very hard on the district on how it has managed taxpayer funds as well as a host of other issues – some of which have touched my family quite personally. However, I simply am not buying the story as presented by FOX 31.
First, let’s look at the players involved:
- Gina Holub could be a heroic whistleblower or she could be a disgruntled employee out to exact revenge. Given the fact that she has strong union ties, including having acted on the union’s negotiating team against the district, it is pretty clear her loyalties lie with her labor overseers. It is unlikely she made the accusations because of any real desire to do good.
- Professor James Sorensen is an expert in accounting having chosen to spend his career in academia rather than the real world that you and I live in. Sorensen was not given the opportunity to discuss the issues with the district and seek an explanation so his conclusions are based on a faulty premise and could likely be easily explained away.
- FOX 31 reporter Josh Bernstein is like most of his type, out for shock value and ratings more than the truth. Many reporters find themselves moving to different markets occasionally but Bernstein has rarely been able to hold down a job for more than three years. Bernstein interviewed Gdowski for more than an hour and a half and yet only chose to show a few scant seconds of the superintendent’s comments. Selective editing? Most likely. Additionally, at last night’s Board of Education meeting, Bernstein was seen coaching union members on how to address the board. Impartial media? Hardly. His credibility is shot.
- Dorian DeLong, president of the District Twelve Educators’ Association, appears predominantly in the report but given his union’s opposition to reform, his credibility is questionable. DeLong is actually not even a classroom teacher but rather spends his days at the ESC ‘advocating’ for teachers while drawing a paycheck paid for by taxpayers. Yup, that’s right, DeLong is one of the reasons the district has no money as we pay his salary despite the fact he doesn’t teach. In all, his union rips of Adams 12 taxpayers for nearly three quarter of a million dollars a year.
- Lastly we come to board member Fred Schaefer. Schaefer appears entirely shocked and indignant about the news he receives from Bernstein. It is a comical reaction. Schaefer should be well-remembered for his ties to the Dan Tang / Heavens Dragon scandal as he was implicated as having held the criminal’s money knowing full well Tang was hiding it from law enforcement. Ethics? Credibility? Zero. Typical member of the Adams Family? Yes.
Some other quick thoughts
The district hired an outside auditor – one the teachers’ union agreed to – to investigate the accusations previously. That person said, “The district is not hoarding money and, in fact, is acting prudently in planning for the long-term financial health of the district.” Interesting. When the union didn’t get the answers they wanted from the auditor they agreed to, they raise a big stink.
In the second part of the report Bernstein attacks Gdowski over his use of the Employee Marketplace alleging that he used his position as the head of the district unfairly. This is absolutely asinine. Gdowski is an employee of the district and had every right to use it as did 4,000 others. Further, the supposed infractions occurred more than two years ago so are hardly relevant today. Gdowski did solicit for his wife’s business but so do many other district employees – that is the marketplace’s purpose. It is there for employees to find trustworthy individuals to do business with as well as to buy and sell goods. This is such a non-issue FOX 31 and Bernstein should be ashamed for even bringing it up.
As I said earlier, I am the first one to pounce on Adams 12 when there is wrongdoing. As a ‘community watchdog’ of sorts I take a bit of pleasure in doing so. However this story smells and those odors are coming from FOX 31, Josh Bernstein and the other major players featured in the “news” story.
Yes, the teachers’ union is upset at the need for their members to pay their fair share but everyone must share the burden of these difficult economic times, just as those that pay their members’ salaries have. My message to them? Deal with it. The unions are there to protect themselves, not to do what is best for your kids or even for their members. That must not be forgotten and they have admitted it publicly.
The Adams 12 Board of Education under the leadership of Mark Clark has taken on a new course in the last couple of years. This course has seen the district make respectable gains in academic achievement and huge strides in restoring the district to financial solvency. The decisions made may not be popular or easy but they are ones that needed to be made and I applaud that.
On the net:
- 2/4/13 – Letter for Adams 12 Superintendent Chris Gdowski
- 2/4/13 – Adams 12 Q & A on news story
- 2/5/13 – Letter for Adams 12 Superintendent Chris Gdowski
- 2/5/13 – Mike Rosen show, 850 KOA, guests include Norm Jennings, Adams 12 District school board member and Fox 31 investigative reporter, Josh Bernstein – Fox 31 hit piece on alleged misuse of funds by Adams 12 school district. MP3 audio download.
- 2/6/13 – Mike Rosen show, 850 KOA, deconstructs Fox 31′s “earthshaking” investigative report on Adams District 12. MP3 audio download.
KDVR Reports on Adams 12 Five Star Schools