School Administrators Pocketing ‘Professional Development’ Dollars

Written by Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – In the midst of excruciating budget cuts, dozens of highly-compensated administrators in the Adams County District 50 Schools saw their yearly allowance for “professional development” nearly quadruple; a yearly stipend they are allowed to pocket as cash.

“Employee benefits are re-evaluated every year. This benefit was determined to be appropriate,” said Steve Saunders, a spokesperson for District 50.

But school board member Sharon Whitehair says she is outraged to see administrators’ benefits increasing in the current budget climate.

“Very infuriating, it is, I’ve got to admit it,” said Whitehair when she saw what the CBS4 investigation had found. “Obviously I don’t condone those actions. I don’t believe those actions were appropriate given the circumstances we are in with our budget.”

The district, with about 10,000 students, has been under budget pressure for several years and is trying to come up with roughly $5 million in cuts in next year’s budget. Furloughs, a four-day school week, and other extreme measures are being considered to make up the shortfall. The district says it’s been cutting about 10 percent a year for several years and says salaries for district administrators have been frozen.

But CBS4 found one thing that was not cut was a yearly allowance for 45 administrators for “professional development.” The CBS4 investigation found that the stipend, which administrators can take as a cash payout, was actually increased. Since 2002 the district has allotted $800 annually per administrator for professional development.
space School Administrators Pocketing Professional Development Dollars

Administrators could use the money to attend conferences, buy educational equipment, or pay for memberships in professional associations. But they have also been given the option of simply taking the professional development money as additional salary.

A review of district records for the last two school years shows that the majority of administrators have elected to pocket the professional development money. What they do with it from there is not always known to the district. And as budgets got tighter and cuts got sharper, the annual allowance for professional development jumped.

Sometime in early 2010, district administrators decided the professional development for top managers was lagging and should increase from $800 per year to $3,000 per year. Additionally, 19 middle managers, who had not previously received professional development allowances, were suddenly awarded $1,500 per year for professional development that they can cash in.

“It should never have happened,” Whitehair said. “I would call it a bonus. If you have the option to take it as a cash payment, what else would you call that?”

Whitehair says the $163,000 allotted for professional development for administrators in the 2010-2011 school year should have been used to hire additional teachers.

Some administrators — who typically make between $80,000 to $100,000 per year — had the district pay for professional memberships or a conference. As to the majority that chose to pocket the funds, Saunders says they may have “paid for professional development dues, goods and services on their own. Accordingly, many employees received professional development funds in salary and then used the salary to pay for dues, goods and services without submitting any reimbursement requests to the district.”

CBS4 asked who decided administrators should be awarded additional professional development monies for this school year. The district responded that the decision to increase the number of administrators getting PD funds, and the increased amounts, were made by an informal organization called “Meet and Confer,” which is made up of building administrators, principals and assistant principals — the same people who benefitted from the increased professional development stipends. The district said it could not provide names, precise dates or any other details on when the decision was made to hike professional development allowances.

Asked why the allowances quadrupled in a time of extreme budget pressure, District 50 Superintendent Dr. Roberta Selleck said “actually that had existed since 2002 and it had never been adjusted. We provide for professional development for all staff members … that was a benefit for our employees for this school year.”

Assistant Superintendent Kirk LeDay said, “This was just a small benefit.” Asked why the district allows administrators to take the funds in salary, Leday said, “It’s a little more convenient to take it in cash than go to the district to get reimbursement.”

About a week after the CBS4 investigation began, Adams County School District 50 announced the program would be halted later this year. In a memo dated March 21, sent to district administrators, Leday wrote, “At this time, we have decided to suspend the professional development benefits effective July 1, 2011. We hope under different economic conditions that we will be able to reinstate the benefit in the future.”

The district is still obligated to pay the increased professional development benefits to a total of 64 administrators for the current school year.

Leday and other administrators insist the suspension of the benefits had nothing to do with the CBS4 probe. The assistant superintendent said the decision to suspend the program was made in November or December of 2010, but just wasn’t announced until March 21, after CBS4 began asking questions.

Whitehair is suspicious of the timing of the district’s announcement.

“If we did not know about this and this continued on, I doubt seriously that would have been suspended. You putting pressure on them — that was the reason they came to this decision,” Whitehair said.

The mechanism of allowing school administrators to take professional development money as additional salary seems to be unusual. CBS4 checked with multiple school districts for their policies on professional development stipends and how the money is distributed. The Cherry Creek School District allots $1,000 per year for 142 administrators to use for professional development. The district suspended the benefit in July 2010 when it became clear budget issues were looming, according district spokesperson Tustin Amole.

“The professional growth amount ($1,000) has been suspended as part of the budget reductions for this year. At no point was it available to take as cash,” Amole wrote.

A spokesman for Denver Public Schools, Michael Vaughn, says if an administrator wants to attend a conference or acquire some sort of professional development, they ask their supervisor if there is money in the budget.

“Any training that our employees get is through departmental budgets and must be approved by their directors … or in case of PD for chiefs, by chief of staff or superintendent. No PD money goes straight to employees.” Vaughn wrote in an e-mail.

The Jefferson County School district “does not allocate funds for professional development to district employees,” said Lynn Setzer, a district spokesperson.

At the Thompson Valley School District, $1,700 is budgeted each year for professional growth for principals. District spokesperson Wes Fothergill said, “It’s intended for their professional growth and it cannot be cashed out as compensation.”

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  • Beth

    Wow, that’s nothing the superintendent in our school district WCSD re6 made with perks $ 600,000.00 in 1 yr! Then laid of teachers and closed at least 1 school down. Then was voted as Superintendent of the Year. For what? And then for each child that they can effectively move out of a school they are paid $600.00 by our government! All sounds a bit fishy to me.

  • Rob

    @Beth, exactly what government is paying $600/student to get them out of school? Sounds a bit suspect. Out of curiosity I tried to find information on your Supintendents pay and the district has hidden it, in my opinion. You can find the Deputy Superintendents pay but not the Superintendents pay. I would be a little concerned that they are not more forthcoming on a public employees salary.

  • bo

    Just like congress, we take care of our own and forget the people that put us here. We need to cut the budget, but let’s vote on our raises first. All in favor, I thought so, lunch time……………..

  • johninlongmont

    wow, what a surprise…school districts are scamming our money…who would have thought?….why don’t we put out real $$$ figures on what every teacher+benefits cost us, how much is being spent on administrators and what % of every dollar confiscated actually goes directly to a student being educated for the public good?…

    nah, the teacher’s union would NEVER let that happen

    • John .

      Why in the world would you badmouth the teachers union?
      They are the ones fighting to insure the workers are getting a fair deal.
      For all of you union bashing morons out there that think unions provide a better
      wage that what you earn you are somewhat correct.
      They do get a better deal than you do and if you had any brains you would join one.
      Or would you rather just give the money directly to the CEO”S?
      By the way when they are successful at busting the unions guess whose
      salaries and benefits are next?
      Teachers and a lot of other preofessions set the pay standards with their employers.
      When the employer can tell them to buzz off they will be lowering your salary next because no one is holding them to a standard.
      It’s kind of like “Take it or leave it sonny”
      Is that what you want?


    • not just another JOHN

      I am sorry you feel the way you do. 99% of the teachers out there are good people. Who I would hope you take a look at are the at the top. Every teacher has someone telling them what and how to teach. Look at those that are in charge of the teachers and you will find the where a problem starts.
      Just look at the point of this article, who is the problem here.
      Oh by the way every person alive go get how much teachers make, just go the web and look it up on the districts web page. It is no secret.

  • jrenke

    I’ve lived in Adams District 50 since 2001. I transferred my son to Adams District 1 back in 2007/08 school year when alot of these scams really started getting severe. Many of us saw through Dr. Selleck and her band of merry con artists back then.

    I just feel bad that because of the housing pricing I haven’t been able to afford to move to the District that should get the money for my son’s education.

  • Catherine Grinstead Thomas

    Wow this was not brought to our attention last week when we attended a School Board Meeting discussing budget cut options!! What other expenses are they not telling us about?? $5 million budget cuts??? We were told $7.5 million in budget cuts!!!! HMMMM Sounds like the district is once again not being honest to their community!!

  • Pati Barker

    Typical. Take our money by force (taxes). Act as though you don’t have enough and the kids will suffer because YOU are wasting OUR money. Blame us for not wanting to be gouged any further, and accuse us of wanting to take away from the children. It’s OUR money, not your money. You are going to ask for more money in the form of taxes or fees, and you will continue to waste it until competition forces you to better manage the thousands of dollars you receive for each student enrolled.

  • Debbie

    It’s time for the people in Dist 50 to get rid of Dr Selleck and her cronies. She
    ‘s cost us millions of dollars. Her sytstem is failing the teachers and even more impoortantly faililng the students. Let’s get back to basics. Writing, Readin and Arithmatic.!

  • David

    Publc education should be disbanded. When something is ‘free’ it appears to have no value. Families should take responsibility for their children’s education. Funding could be supplied through property tax savings and government tax credits. Private schools would then compete for each child. Competition and ‘perceived’ value could change our children’s education overnight. Colorado’s $8167.00 per student times 25 students per classroom is $204,175.00. That should be enough to cover a teacher’s salary and school overhead. Public education appears to be bloated, inefficient and dysfunctional.

  • Lyn

    Public education includes not just the average Joe kind of kid, but also special needs kids. Those children can receive physical therapy, special aides to be with them every hour they are in school, may require a nurse for tube feedings or other special medical needs, etc. All of that costs a bunch of money, sometimes many times the per pupil cost you quoted. Then there are books (the prices of which are inflated by the companies that print/sell them), paper and other supplies, administrators, janitors, cafeteria workers, and the central office staff, all who are paid out of part of that $204,175 for your 25 student class. And if you attended public school, there were a lot of people who paid taxes for YOU to get an education. We “pay if forward” for what we received. One of our country’s strengths has been public education, which affords opportunity for even our poorest children to have a better life. We may need to change parts of our education system, but let’s don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • David

    Excellent reporting by Mr. Maass, keep up the good work.

  • Kay

    Thank you for the investigative reporting of School District #50. I hope you continue as there is probably much more to uncover. There needs to be more focus on the education of our children instead of the egos of the administrators and three of the School Board members! This has gone on far too long while losing students to other school districts there are members of the district that have blinders on all the while running this school district in the ground to feed their own needs and not the education of the children.
    Good job. Keep up the good work!!

  • Greatful to District 50

    My opinion is if you are waiting for Selleck to give you the truth about anytihing, you will be waiting a long time. Does the term scam artist or flim flam mean anything to you. She is sly and crafty. What she is doing to District 50 she did to two districts in Illinois. Why do you suppose an Illinois architect was hired to design your new HS. Steering construction is where the real money is at. It’s all about how much money she can make and if you challenge her or push back she will have your job. Her way of the highway was her method in Illlinois. Get rid of her before you are completely broke. Lots of committees to give the appearance of concern for input but it’s all for show. Long on processes that are never monitored for results and short on results. She improved nothing in Illinois except her checking account. Can’t be a good leader when you are constantly dodging the public and denying requests for infomation. I bet she has the school board snowed and the attorney under her thumb too. Pitty District 50. She can waste money better than anyone I know and do it with a smile on her innocent face. If she gets caught she will politely apolgize, ignore your and continue like nothing happened.

    • Dist 50 employee

      Hello and thank you for thiis comment she may have a smile probably because she is so proud of her self saying look what I took from the children but also the employees as far as an innocent face not so true, she is also never polite unless things aere going her way you are so right she ignors us continues on like nothing has happened.

  • Louis

    Rumors are that Dr. Selleck is gone, as are most of her puppets. Sounds like some building administrators went straight to the School Board complaining about the District Administration. It’s just a shame it took so long to happen, not to mention all of the taxpayers money wasted. Maybe the district can get back to educating students

  • Cindy

    I live and work in District 50. It’s about time they got rid of the “THE WICKED WITCH”. She has brought down the moral in our schools. I think she and all her puppets need to take a walk . So Roberta get on your broom and fly away.

  • DeRae Rivera

    District 50 had a great Athletic director who loved the kids and put then first. We need to stand up for him, so he can continue to move the school forward. Right now He “Is on a 12 week family med. leave”. I don’t think this is the truth. He cares for the kids to leave with out saying good bye! Help Us save our AD!

    • john

      Streno must stay

      • Sharon

        You have got to be kidding. Streno should go just like Roberta and all the admin who slithered in to their positions at District 50. Tony Streno stole that job from an exceptional administrator and educator. He didn’t even have to interview for the job. Imaginine that!

  • AJ

    As a district 50 grad, I would never send my kids back to that district. I hear the stories from my brothers kids and th district has become a joke. Use to be district 50 as a great place for your kids to go, Fantastic programs in all kinds of areas. Now they don’t care about the past and those who that were, it’s all about this new what ever she is. Alot of uncaring money hungry people who don’t care about kids, tradtion, or the district. Those in the distict that do care, are kept under thumb. Why doesnt this school baord care? YOU SHOULD ALL BE SHAMED OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO THE DISTRICT!

  • Louis

    So Roberta is applying for the Superintendent position in Naples Florida while she is on FNLA leave. Just more of her suspect activities. Goole “Collier County Public Schools” for confirmation.

    • Fed up

      Thanks for the warning.

      Let’s try to focus on the positive: we may finally be rid of her. Make sure she takes some of her puppets with her.

      Florida can have them-they’ll be in great company amongst the gators and sharks.

  • District 50 mom and taxpayer

    I have a child attending highschool in district 50 and have been to several school board meetings. Oftentimes, negative comments were left off the public video record. There are at least 2 school board members that have been fighting for our district and for the truth to be told. If only we could get the whole story. There is a lot of “missing truths” What happened to our athletic equipment and money that was raised and purchased from the previous year and then lost? Why can’t the Horticulture program accept their winning money of $100,000 from the Home and Garden show? I would like to thank Channel 4 for being brave enough to stand up to do this story and get justice for the parents and tax payers of district 50.

    • Kay

      I am glad that someone finally mentioned the two board members that have fought so hard for this district and who have endured being publicly demonizes, publicly humiluated by the other three. As for the horticulture department Phil Love has done an excellant job with this department however he has been ignored to the basement with no way of contacting him. The school district should be very proud of what he has done!!!
      Thank you!

  • Westy Dean

    So sad.
    Ok – so I understand “PD” for educators, but why do top level administrators need more “development”? That money should have been used for classroom teachers.

    PS. nothing but accolades for Phil Love.

    • Sharon

      Absolutely! That money could have been used for math textbooks for our students. Did you know that math texts were not provided to middle school students(well at least one middle school I know of for sure) for well over a year and a half and maybe not even now? Each and every student should have a math textbook to take home especially in a standards based program. Not to mention that there are not enough hours in the day for a teacher to plan for 25+ students on four different levels in one class and then not to have the textbooks necessary for her students to learn what she has planned, It is really sad that it has taken so long for the community to realize what Roberta and her administrators have “stolen” from our children and from our district.

  • http://None Dist50emp

    Roberta Selleck is currently seeking employment at the Collier school District in Florida so why should any of this surprise anyone. Let’s not forget, as some of us work for free and have our wages frozen and are facing wage cuts and inflated insurance premiums and raised pera contributions and decreased hours and twice the work load, that the district has a 115 million dollar high school and we are paying for our dear Roberta to look for a job in Florida!! Our students are failing in big Bertas Standards Based VISION / nightmare, are in classrooms full of noise and chaos and are allowed to do nothing day in and day out because they are
    “learning at their own pace” and next year they will charge low income families twice the fees for their students to attend big Bertas wonderland so NOONE at the administration level has to endure any cuts!!!! And district 50 can retain 16 million dollars in their district surplus!!! So pray tell me why the PD pay is suprising anyone!!! And where is Big Berta????? Applying for a job in Florida!!!! This ship is sinking and our faithful leader is doing an open forum in Florida on the 18th of April!!! Abandon Ship BERTA we have hit an ICEBURG!!!

  • Debbie

    Under Selleck administration we have 3 Assistant Supers WHY? I think the buck should stop there. And why do they have Myra Shepard working? As a tax payer and employee of Dist #50 WE need to have a say in what is going on in the district. Lets start fresh eliminate Kirk, Pamela, Myra, and Sandy Rotello and get some bright thinkers who are going to turn OUR district around. Lets hope that We can turn the tables on what she tried to destroy and bring back a child friendly district.

  • Past experience

    Sounds like RB’s Naperville IL architects need a way to have someone else pay for some trips to Florida. I’m quite certain that a new school is in their future. They just don’t know it yet. To use a Palinism, SD 50, how’s “learning at their own pace” working out for ya? That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, however predictable. That way she is no longer responsible for performance in any way shape or form. Same way she ran thiings in Illinois. I suppose that approach would work if your major is cell phone use. All form no substance. Colorado weather is too harsh for her corvette anyway. Do everyone a favor and fire her instead of passing her on to another unfortunate unsuspecting school district.

  • Beth

    You should vote Steve Isenhour in as Superintendent! He is simply an awesome individual. Wish he were still in our district, but alas we lost him and another great principal ( Mary Lauer ) to the DPS. Sucks to be us.

    • wessty grad

      instead we get dps trash at westy

      • Dist 50 employee

        Let’s focus on the real problem Roberta Selleck. Lets hope she is out of here and no longer our problem and lets get her rag tag team out of here as well.

  • J.Lane

    None of you make any sense! There are several comments about two Board members who are working for the people. Does that mean the other three are not? I disagree! They would have been recalled if that were true. The Board represents all of the community of this district, not just their friends or special interest groups. This Board must make it a priority to represent the interests of all community members. Waiting till November will not support the students of this District. The Board needs action NOW!!
    As for the Superintendent, she has lead this District tot he highest pay tables for all employee groups. Where was the hatred for her back when she was fighting for better pay??????
    This district finally has two new schools. The first in over 40 years! If you don’t agree, refresh your memory by looking up the ballot question and note it said replace an elementary and high school.
    Shame on district administrators who went to the Board complaining like spoiled children, you have been nothing but supported by the Superintendent. You have been sold a bad deal when you signed on to have her removed.
    Many members of this community and staff are behaving like two year olds. It is time to grow up. Stop complaining an become involved in your community.

    • gladtograduate02

      There has always been hatred toward that “women” my sympathy towards the students for endearing this. there is so much more going on behind closed doors that needs to be exposed….new schools – who the heck cares the healthy rivalry was needed between ranum and westy……what a perfect new name for the school Westminster Wolves – elusive, territorial, and down right vicious.
      yes I am ranting….because I am mad

    • john

      you need to wake up, or yur married to one of the three who don’t care.

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