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Not on the Same Page Over Textbook Needs

Donald B. Winstead, who manages the systems' textbook distribution with the help of one staffer, says he doesn't think there's a widespread shortage.
Donald B. Winstead, who manages the systems' textbook distribution with the help of one staffer, says he doesn't think there's a widespread shortage. (Pouya Dianat -- The Washington Post)

But late last month, after just weeks on the job, Rhee announced that half of the schools did not have all their required books. A few days later, she toured the book warehouse alongside the mayor, pointing to pallets crammed with textbooks.

"You see there's dust on these, so they haven't been touched in a long time," she said.

Among other things, Rhee found stacks of novels that had not been delivered to high schools.

Other problems linger.

The automated tracking system introduced by Janey has not provided a comprehensive count because not all principals have entered their books into the system, school district officials said.

Principals also have missed deadlines: A review of roughly 150 textbook request forms, mostly for replacement books, showed that none was submitted by the April 16 deadline for the upcoming year. Principals also were supposed to alert the system to book shortfalls by June, but textbook manager Donald Winstead said just 40 schools met that deadline.

"Principals have not responded in a timely way," he said, adding that orders continue to come.

Winstead also acknowledges that the warehouse is unorganized -- he shares space with heaps of old chairs, desks and other supplies, as well as dozens of shelves crammed with student records. He doesn't have the right forklift to properly stock books, and one of two elevators is often broken, so he can't move books quickly. He has a staff of one and says he needs more help.

But Winstead said he doesn't think the system is facing a widespread book shortage.

This week, Rhee reported that the warehouse received orders between mid-July and mid-August for 69,000 textbooks and other materials, with about 22,000 still to be distributed.

Winstead, who oversees the requests, said he was not involved in calculating that figure. "I don't know where she got that number from."

Staff writers Theola Labb�, Sue Anne Pressley Montes and Sylvia Moreno contributed to this report.


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