SEATTLE – Former Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson released a statement Tuesday in which she addressed the scandal that ultimately led to her firing.
The school board voted unanimously last week to terminate the contracts of Goodloe-Johnson and Chief Financial and Operating Officer Don Kennedy.
At issue was a district program to help minorities get school contracts. An audit revealed $1.8 million in spending that can't be explained, and questions about the man who directed the program, Silas Potter.
The board said “a lack of management oversight and accountability” may have allowed “potentially fraudulent activity to persist for years without intervention.”
Here is Goodloe-Johnson's full, unedited statement:
I want to thank the members of the Seattle School Board for their faith and confidence and support for me during my three and a half years as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. The board members are good people who make tremendous sacrifices of their time and energies to serve the public and the needs of children, and they deserve our praise and support for their work.
I regret that my tenure in Seattle ended during the time of the questions and concerns that were legitimately raised about the Regional Small Business Development Program.
As superintendent, I am ultimately responsible for all of the work of the school district. Seattle Public Schools has a budget of more than half a billion dollars and 8,000 employees. Thousands of financial transactions and other important operational decisions are made every year. Even though a superintendent must delegate major areas of work and responsibility to good and able people who work as part of the leadership team, ultimately the responsibility for success all across the organization rests with the superintendent.
In the case of the small business program, I am angry that any school district employee would abuse a program and taxpayer funds in this way. I had absolutely no involvement in this appalling abuse of the public's trust. Neither the state auditor's investigation nor the independent counsel investigation authorized by the school board found that I was in any way involved in these actions.
Regardless, this situation happened on my watch as superintendent. For that, I am deeply sorry, and I certainly accept and understand the school board's decision to make a change in the leadership of the district.
I leave Seattle with tremendous respect for all those wonderful public servants I was privileged to work alongside of these past few years as we took strong action to improve our public schools and the lives of the children we served. Those exemplary teachers, administrators, staff members and other public servants remain at the school district today doing what they do every day - making the future brighter for our kids. I feel tremendously blessed and honored to have been their colleague.
I am very proud of the things that we accomplished working together. We began a five-year plan to improve our schools all across the city, and much progress has been made toward that goal.
We have made strong academic progress. Just this past year, Seattle students outperformed their counterparts from across the state of Washington in math, reading and science. We also saw a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and minority students as we worked hard to help every child learn.
We created performance reports for schools that gave parents more information than they've ever had about how their children's schools are doing. We increased the level of academic rigor in our schools, and as a result, we now have more students than ever before taking and passing college preparation courses. We started more regularly assessing the performance of our students in meeting our goals, and reporting to the community about that progress.
There were tough decisions to be made, and we made them, including closing some under-enrolled schools that were leaving children under served. And working with our great teachers, we developed a better contract for teachers that met their needs but allowed us to continue to focus on the needs of the children we serve. We also consolidated some of the functions of the central office to make us more efficient and effective, and focused much more on serving the needs of the schools whose job it is every day to educate children.
I leave Seattle Public Schools knowing that all the wonderful people there who helped make these great improvements will continue to stay focused every day first on the needs of the children.
I wish to thank the school board for the opportunity to serve, and the teachers, administrators, staff, parents and students for the opportunity to have been part of their great work. I will carry my love for Seattle, its people and its schools with me all the rest of my days.