By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty launched a four-month audit of the D.C. public school system yesterday that he said will result in bureaucratic savings and free up money for education initiatives.
"We want to make sure precious public dollars are pushed toward the classroom where they are needed," Fenty said at a news conference outside the school system headquarters, on North Capitol Street.
The audit will cost $3.3 million and be performed by two management consulting firms: Alvarez & Marsal and McKinsey & Co. It comes as Fenty (D) prepares to take control of the struggling 55,000-student system.
After months of political debate and maneuvering over the question of school governance, Fenty and school leaders sought to present a unified team: The mayor was flanked at the lectern by Superintendent Clifford B. Janey and Board of Education President Robert C. Bobb.
Bobb said he began considering an audit of the system shortly after he took over the school board in January, adding that he had interviewed several potential firms and favored Alvarez & Marsal. That company has worked with school systems in St. Louis, New York City and New Orleans, although its work has included some highly publicized missteps, including the creation of consolidated bus routes that left students stranded.
Bobb defended the selection of the auditing firms, saying Alvarez & Marsal has learned from its mistakes and will not repeat them in Washington. Fenty and Bobb said they expect the audit to result in a restructuring of the central administration that could improve efficiency and save money.
"At the end of the day, we must have the intestinal fortitude to implement things that have come out of this report," Bobb said.
The audit will be paid for with private funds, city officials said. The D.C. Education Compact, a nonprofit organization founded by business leaders two years ago, will be in charge of fundraising. Although no firms have formally offered to donate money, several local and national organizations have expressed interest, said Donna Power Stowe, executive director of the compact.
"Some are really close," she said. "It will not be too long before we have an announcement."
Fenty is expected to assume control of the school system June 12 at the end of a standard congressional review period.
A group of residents is attempting to force a referendum on Fenty's takeover. The city has challenged the legality of a referendum, and a Superior Court judge is scheduled to consider the case tomorrow.