SEATTLE - Still millions of dollars in the red, Seattle Public Schools is apparently finding reason to celebrate.
In this case, the Superintendent herself spent $3,800 of the district's dollars on a catered retirement party last June, in the midst of massive cuts and school closures.
That party and its price tag first came to light in a state auditor's report that condemns the school district for financial mismanagement on virtually every level.
It may not sound like much when you consider Seattle Public Schools has a billion dollar budget, but plenty of parents and teachers say they can come up with all kinds of ways that money could have been better spent.
Meg Diaz is a former strategic business consultant and current parent with two children in Seattle Public Schools. The superintendent's own credit card statement outlines her expenditures.
"That $3,800 maybe could've saved a drama program or financed a reading program. I just don't think spending money on a retirement party while you're closing five schools and slashing programs is a good use of taxpayer money. To see the Superintendent's name on the receipt? It's a very bad example by someone who's supposed to lead by example," says Diaz.
The party hosted 70 people. It honored teachers and staff who retired at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. The district defends the expenditure, calling it a small token of its appreciation for staffers who devoted their careers to Seattle Public Schools. Similar parties, they say, are held every year.
But the audit specifically singled out that retirement party as an "inappropriate use of [procurement] cards." The report cites the district's own policy that only allows for $1000 per procurement card transaction.
The district declined comment today.