Alexandria schools Deputy Superintendent Margaret Byess, who oversees the troubled capital improvements area, has resigned, effective May 25.
Byess, who worked in the division for five years and has led it for the
last two-and-a- half years, came under intense criticism last week from the Alexandria City Council over the school system’s alleged mismanagement of its repair and reconstruction budget.
Superintendent Morton Sherman said in a statement last week that “rogue employees” had improperly transferred money from one project to another over the past two years. “No personal gain or profit has been indicated for present or ex-employees,” he said.
The financial juggling, which was caught only after vendors complained to City Hall that they had not been paid for $4.1 million worth of work, has shorted five schools of the authority to spend $2.5 million to make other repairs. An outside audit of the alleged mismanagement is due to be released Friday, after school officials are briefed in closed-door session Thursday.
The official resignation announcement did not say what prompted Byess’ resignation. She made $167,000 and an additional $20,00 in a sheltered annuity, according to the Education Association of Alexandria.
Last week, Alexandria Vice Mayor Kerry Donley criticized the lack of financial controls in the schools that led to the scandal, noting that it violated the rules of Accounting 101. “That’s called an overdraft, and that’s what we have here,” he said.
Byess said at the time that while five schools — John Adams, Mount Vernon, Samuel Tucker and William Ramsey elementary schools and the Minnie Howard campus of T.C. Williams — had a reduction in their budget authority, in most cases the schools had already made the repairs and had money left over, or projects had not yet been started. Kelly Alexander, the school system’s director of communications, added Monday that no major projects were going to be eliminated due to the change in budget authority.
One member of the department resigned and another was placed on administrative leave over the matter. Jean Sina, the schools’ chief financial officer, resigned earlier this year.