Miami schools administrator who helped pick K12 online learning received $9,070 raise
With teachers at Miami-Dade County Public Schools still waiting for their $ 100 gift cards to pass a disastrous online learning platform at the start of school, one of the administrators got the "lion's share" of the selection of the company that created that platform increased $ 9,070 last month.
Lisette Alves, 51, the assistant superintendent for Academics, Accountability and School Improvement in the District Academic and Transformation Office, received the raise on Sept. 25. Her six-digit salary was raised to $ 129,070, a 7.6 percent increase. She has been working in the school district since 1990.
Alves worked with Sylvia Diaz, assistant superintendent of innovation and school choice in the same district office, to select K12 as the district's virtual learning provider while schools were closed due to the pandemic. Both women report to the academic director Marie Izquierdo, who reports directly to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Miami-Dade is the only school district in the state that selects K12. Izquierdo said the district's lack of a learning management system limited its options. She submitted the district reopening plan to the state for approval.
The platform kept crashing, resulting in thousands of students failing to study in the first week and a half of the already surreal 2020-21 school year. After 400 public comments from frustrated teachers and parents played overnight at a marathon school council meeting in early September, the board voted unanimously at 3 a.m. to sever ties with K12.
The district signed a $ 15.3 million no-bid deal with K12 this summer without getting approval from the school board. He referred to the school board's guidelines that allowed the district to purchase curricula without approval.
Carvalho later announced that he had never signed the contract and the board voted to close that loophole due to lack of participation.
More than 6,000 students have withdrawn from Miami-Dade Schools
Since school began, 6,185 students at traditional public schools have been withdrawn from traditional public schools from August 27 to September 24, the first month of school which Miami says is a combination of distance learning and face-to-face tuition, according to Heralds news partner WLRN. There are a total of 255,000 students.
Carvalho informed the school board on September 10th that Diaz and Alves were responsible for “the lion's share” in the selection of K12, led by Izquierdo. Carvalho has said that he takes full responsibility. Board members continued to ask questions about how well K12 was reviewed prior to its selection.
School district spokeswoman Jackie Calzadilla said the Alves increase was the result of a human resources review of equity compensation. She said Alves oversees various departments including Language Arts, STEAM, Math, Science, Careers and Technology, Visual and Performing Arts, Advanced Academics and Talented, Bilingual and World Languages, Social Sciences and Sports.
"The salary she was receiving was inconsistent with the complexity of her job or when compared to the remuneration of county employees with similar titles or professionals with comparable roles," Calzadilla wrote in an email.
She added that Alves' salary has been under review since earlier this year. "However, it didn't take effect until September, after all executive adjustments went into effect."
All exempt employees received a 3% increase on July 1st. According to an employee database for 2019-20, Alves made $ 116,816 last year. Diaz took home $ 145,705 last year and Izquierdo made $ 176,598.
In positions similar to Alves and Diaz, Magaly Abrahante, Assistant Superintendent of Early Childhood, Exceptional Student Education and Title I Programs, earned $ 162,475. Before she was promoted to assistant superintendent on school improvements, Try K. Diggs made $ 145,137.
Calzadilla didn't respond to questions about whether anyone in the Science and Transformation Bureau had received an extra raise like Alves and who requested and approved the raise.
When asked if anyone in M-DCPS was subject to disciplinary action following the K12 fallout, she wrote, "The K12 matter is currently under investigation," without going into detail.
Alves did not respond to requests for comment.
The pandemic has created financial problems for the Miami-Dade Schools
The increase comes to light after Carvalho and CFO Ron Steiger warned of difficult financial times from the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, the state funds the district based on last year's enrollment rates. However, it is not clear how long the state will do this or whether it will continue to fund virtual students at the same level as students in school.
Approximately 144,000 students returned to face-to-face classes in the week of October 5, just over half of the district's 255,000 students.
The district has 8,000 fewer students than originally planned for this school year.
Carvalho raised the issue at the board meeting on Wednesday to explain why the district is unable to hire more teachers. Board members came up with this idea to ease the workload of teachers who have been pressured to teach in-person students and online students at the same time, known as the dual modality.
At the Miami-Dade School Board meeting, parents and educators ask for clarity about the COVID rules
"We're creating a bigger hole than the hole the entire state is in," Carvalho said, pointing out that every school district but one has seen a decline in enrollment.
Since K12 training for teachers was considered too little and too late, Carvalho asked K12 for a donation for Miami Dade teachers. K12 donated $ 1.57 million to the Foundation for New Education Initiatives, a nonprofit that supports the district and was chaired by Carvalho in March 2008.
“It's the least,” Kvalho told the Herald.
Teachers received an email from their school principals on the Sunday before the first day of school informing them of an incentive from K12: Prepare your lessons on the platform by midnight for an incentive of $ 100.
The School District Inspector General's Office initiated a review of the money transfer after Carvalho accepted a donation from a seller. The contract was never fully executed, according to Carvalho, and K12 was never paid.
The foundation held a board meeting on Tuesday. One of two action items on the agenda was accepting the donation from K12 to give teachers $ 100 worth of gift cards.
But 20 minutes to 1 p.m. after a reporter from the Miami Herald and the Inspector General's Office were expected, the item was removed from the agenda.
The Foundation's Executive Director, Ann de las Pozas, said the item had been withdrawn "out of respect for the ongoing review".
Pozas wrote in an email that the payment of the gift cards to the teachers "depends on the completion of the OIG review and subsequent FNEI board meeting to vote on the acceptance of the donation and approval of the costs".
The foundation's next scheduled meeting is January 19, 2021, although the board could hold an earlier meeting.
It is not clear whether only teachers who submitted their lesson plans on time would be eligible for the gift cards or whether all teachers would receive the gift cards. The email that went to the teachers said the former, but Carvalho said the latter.
The donation is not enough to cover all teachers.
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