Transparency award ironic

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District bares all on website, but financial record is not pretty.

The Alamo Colleges may have received kudos for financial transparency, but they still come in last for spending decisions.

The district’s website won an award from the state for financial transparency March 16, but the next day, District 6 trustee Joe Alderete disagreed about the district’s worthiness at a Student Success Committee meeting.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Students and employees have faulted the Alamo Colleges for failing to explain how money is spent and leaving students out of the decision-making process.

Ultimately, the biggest complaint is for not investing in students and student services.

The district’s web page for financial transparency scored a 23 out of a 23-point score card to win the platinum award from the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle for 2015.

The platinum award, which requires at least 21 out of 23 success points, is the highest level awarded.

The web page — which includes operating budgets, annual financial reports and check registers — was just created last year, yet already won an award.

The district updated the page specifically to win the award, Associate Vice Chancellor Pamela K. Ansboury said at the board’s March 24 regular meeting.

But has anyone seen what’s on the actual reports? Just because we know how much is budgeted doesn’t mean it’s all going to the benefit of students and their education.

For example, $31,300 was spent on new ID badges for all employees.

Other costs at this college alone include $70,000 earmarked for a mosaic on an outside wall of McAllister Fine Arts Center, as well as almost $150 for SAC Data Day agendas that were mostly thrown away.

And then, of course, there are the likely to be exorbitant future costs for this college’s address change.

District officials are quick to say those are college decisions, but questionable decisions abound at the district level as well.

Meanwhile, what about Chancellor Bruce Leslie’s salary? It’s $369,229, a nearly 18 percent increase over the course of six years.

No other employee has seen anything close to that.

The chancellor, whose current salary represents a $56,459 raise since 2009, boasted about the award earlier this month.

“This new award builds off of the achievements of our dedicated employees to ensure that the Alamo Colleges fully meets the needs of the students and communities we serve,” Leslie said in a March 17 press release available on the district web page.

Leslie may be happy the college won the award, but everyone else would be a lot more proud of saving students money or increased spending on student success and services?

The Alamo Colleges, particularly Leslie, haven’t met the needs of many students, employee or community members.

The student-led protests at board meetings are proof.

Sure, the district should be applauded for revealing all of its purchases on the website.

However, that doesn’t excuse the district from spending the money unwisely. If the district just included students in its spending decisions, imagine how transparent the transparency would actually be.

Not only would most students and faculty be happy because we would have input on spending decisions, but the district would actually be achieving four of its six values — “Students First,” “Respect for all,” “Community-Engaged,” and “Collaboration.”

By doing so, we wouldn’t even have to visit a website to know what the district is up to because we would be involved in the decisions.

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