Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Violated Ethics, Law; Does School Board Care?

My remarks delivered at the February 9th School Board Hearing (Video: - at about 21:55 minute mark)

My name is Anna Urman. I’m a Fairfax County resident, parent of 1 (soon to be 2) school age kids. Professionally, I am a government procurement law subject matter expert – and this topic is near and dear to me both personally and professionally. I support the audit committee’s work and believe that the School Board owes it to the residents, taxpayers, and parents of this county an independent, unbiased mechanism to ensure that our money is wisely, directly, accountably spent in the classrooms, on the education of our children.

One glaring example where an independent auditor’s assessment would be timely and relevant is the recent award to Battelle for Kids of a 5-year contract initially valued at $279,000. The contract is for “leadership development” where most of the investment is into 100 assessors who observe classrooms and perform leadership training with principals and administrators.

At a time when our kids are attending school in trailers – while these same administrators are residing in Class A, LEED Certified new office complex, we cannot afford to waste more money on buttressing up the upper echelons.

This $279,000 contract, by the way, was increased. In July 2016, just 10 weeks before Superintendent Garza announced

her acceptance of a job as President and CEO of Battelle, the contractor in question, a modification was exercised to add $363,500 in the 2nd year of the contract. That’s over $300,00 more, or 649% more than originally planned. It would be at least naïve to assume that the two negotiations were conducted without knowledge of one another – she WAS hired as the CEO, after all.

I urge the school board to examine the findings and results of the initial 18 months’ work for Battelle, and determine whether our children are reaping the rewards. Talk to the teachers – who aren’t getting the resources they need. Ask the parents whose kids’ programs are being slashed.

I also urge the Board to re-examine the ethics - both the Virginia Conflicts of Interest Act 2.2-3100 and your own Policy 1801.7 which applies specifically to yourselves, the Honorable School Board members and the Superintendent. Specifically, prohibited actions are:

  • Solicit money or other thing of value for services performed within scope of official duties

  • Use for own economic benefit confidential information that has been acquired by reason of position and which is not available to the public

  • Accept money, loan, gift, favor, service, or business professional opportunity that reasonably tends to influence him in performance of his official duties

  • Accept any business or professional opportunity when he knows there is a reasonable likelihood that the opportunity is being afforded to him to influence him in performance of official duties

  • Represent before former agency any client or act in a representative capacity for any group, for compensation for a period of 1 year after public employment

Ms. Garza is in violation of several of these provisions. I urge you, for the best interests of the County and our kids, to allow an independent, unbiased audit committee to examine such expenditures and honestly determine whether they’re truly in the best interest of this community.