If you were leading a school district that’s always pleading for more money “for the kids,” would you spend $439.70 for meals at the Capital Grille, a swanky and expensive steakhouse?
Would you stay at expensive hotels like the Raphael in Kansas City, described on its website as “Kansas City’s Original Boutique Hotel”? Would you stay in hotels such as Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton, instead of more modestly-priced alternatives that many business travelers use?
If you’re recently departed USD 259 (Wichita, Kansas public school district) superintendent Winston Brooks, that’s what you did.
Earlier this year I made a records request for the credit card records of superintendent Brooks. He’s no longer superintendent, but if the Wichita school board had its way, he’d still be in charge. Board members seemed to love him.
About the Capital Grille: We don’t know how many people attended the dinner that cost $439.70. That’s a problem with the records I received: They’re nowhere near complete. These records don’t say, for example, in what city this Capital Grille is located in, or how many people dined for $439.70.
The records I received don’t look like normal credit card statements. They don’t look like output from a credit card company’s summary of charges, nor do they look like output from a financial management system that a business might use to track and manage travel expenses. Instead, they look like records typed into a spreadsheet or word processing program.
I think we can draw two conclusions from these records: First, there’s room for improvement in the financial management practices of the Wichita school district. As the district is asking Wichitans, including the business community, to make a large investment in the schools in the form of the bond issue that’s on the November 4 ballot, let’s consider their current management practice.
Second, when it comes to those at the top, it isn’t really all about the kids after all, is it?