Are private eyes watching you?
One of the issues that Jimmy Gittings is furious over and plans to take up in his back-to-school radio address tonight: The city school system has hired three investigators to take anonymous complaints about BCPSS employees, and they seem to be targeting principals. "It's deplorable," the administrators union president told me. "You have vindictive people that are gonna send letters in."
Prince George's County schools also have a complaint unit, but Gittings said the administrators union there was involved in developing the structure for it. He said he was not notified of the investigators' hiring in Baltimore.
I asked Dr. Alonso about these "private eyes," and his explanation made the arrangement sound less clandestine than Gittings made it seem. During the budget reorganization, Alonso said, the system added five people (not three) to its legal department to investigate complaints of fraud anywhere in the system. Previously, when there was a complaint of fraud at a school, the area academic officers were in charge of investigating. That's no longer possible because the area offices were eliminated. More importantly, Alonso said a conflict of interest had been inherent in having the people who supervise schools investigating them, especially since, in some cases, the AAOs were implicated in complaints. When the complaint was about someone in the central office, the conflict of interest had the potential to be even worse.
Alonso acknowledged that most of the complaints coming in this summer have been about principals, since people whose jobs that principals eliminated from their budgets have an ax to grind. He predicted that, once the school year starts, the distribution will be more equal among all groups of employees.
Gittings and Alonso are in agreement that most complaints turn out to be unfounded. But Gittings disagrees vehemently with the way that Alonso has chosen to fulfill the school system's responsibility to check them out.