Someone please hand D.C. schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson a rag to wipe off her heels. She’s stepped in a pile of poop and needs to come clean ASAP.
The Associated Press revealed the stinky situation Tuesday morning, reporting that a Freedom of Information Act request shows that Miss Henderson and private food-service providers for the school system were a bit too snug when it came to funding an annual black-tie gala at the Kennedy Center, where school employees are feted.
The gist of the disturbing news is that the very city official who alerted school authorities to the problem was fired, but the chancellor and city leaders have yet to learn their lesson.
The nuts and bolts of the AP story go like this:
1) The chancellor asked a contractor to donate $100,000 to the KenCen affair after — after — a school official had blown the whistle on the contractor.
2) The chancellor fired the whistleblower in 2013.
3) The chancellor enlisted Chartwells catering and a partner firm, Thompson Hospitality, to donate $100,000 to the KenCen gala. Thompson donated $25,000.
4) The whistleblower won a $450,000 settlement with the city in 2014.
5) “In June 2015, Chartwells’ parent company — Compass Group USA, based in Charlotte, North Carolina — agreed to pay $19.4 million to settle the whistleblower lawsuit, which included claims that it had cheated the city through price-gouging and fraud, deliberately stockpiled food and allowed it to rot and served spoiled food in school cafeterias,” the AP story said. “Despite the settlement, Chartwells’ contract was renewed, and the company is being paid $32 million to serve food this school year.”
6) Also during the summer of 2015, the D.C. Council pretended to haggle over the Chartwells-Thompson food services regarding the D.C. Public Schools System’s summer feeding program. It seems the program was underfunded and a handful of council members didn’t want the Chartwells-Thompson contract renewed because of improprieties.
Public feeding programs shouldn’t be complex — although it’s clear that a lack of oversight seems to be a culprit.
As America’s national cultural center, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is our premier venue. That public servants are honored there is remarkable. That these servants also receive monetary awards is extraordinary.
That our elected leaders and school officials cannot get a simple, mundane feeding program right is disgusting.
Council member David Grosso, at-large independent and chairman of the education committee, wants parents and other stakeholders to help him retain his seat. In fact, he’s touting a campaign fundraiser for next week.
The venue is named Mess Hall, which would be funny if he and other city leaders weren’t again making D.C. the laughingstock.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.