A federally funded education program at Oak Hill, the city's youth detention facility in Laurel, has been almost nonexistent for two years despite federal funding allocations that exceeded $200,000, according to a report released yesterday.
The highly critical report, drafted by a team of federal Department of Education monitors who inspected the facility in May, describes a program in disarray. Oak Hill officials did not spend about three-quarters of the allocated federal funds, were unable to produce required records or identify who was responsible for keeping them and had only a skeletal staff that appeared to be hastily drawn together shortly before the monitors' visit, the report said.
Sources present during the inspection previously described the scene during the monitors' visit as a "Potemkin village" designed to give the impression of a viable program where one had not existed.
"We have found no other similar institution in this type of situation," said Mary Jean LeTendre, director of compensatory education programs for the Department of Education. LeTendre, whose office issued the report, said in an interview that federal monitors had visited similar Chapter 1 programs in about 30 states, including Maryland.
"It appears that there is no program to serve the children who are there," said LeTendre, "and that is very disconcerting because the needs of students in these institutions are particularly great."
LeTendre said that it is unusual to find a government program that does not use the majority of the funding it has received. "I certainly don't believe we have run into other programs that did not spend three-quarters of their funds," she said. "That's a given."
Federal officials have given the District until Aug. 15 to take corrective action and submit detailed accounting reports.
Chapter 1 is a special compensatory education program that provides funds for remedial reading and mathematics classes for students four years below grade level, as well as special music and computer courses.
According to the report, the District had $240,053 to hire eight people for the Oak Hill program for the school year 1986-87, including more than $100,000 unspent from the previous year. However, officials had produced only three staff members at the time of the May visit: a program director hired the previous week, a substitute teacher and a teacher aide.
Youth Services Administrator Jesse E. Williams Jr. said in a June 11 Washington Post story that the group identified to the federal monitors as Chapter 1 employes included two who received temporary assignments the week of the scheduled visit and one the previous week. A fourth worker, an education aide and Chapter 1 employe for 10 years, was also identified.
Williams could not be reached for comment yesterday, but previously defended the last-minute staffing as an effort to ensure its survival. Last month, Williams announced plans to hire 269 new employes for the city's three youth detention facilities, including Oak Hill.
Martin Gerry, the education expert on a three-member panel appointed by a D.C. Superior Court judge last year to oversee a court-approved plan for the youth facilities, said yesterday that he had conducted an investigation into the monitors' visit and had reached similar conclusions.
Gerry said, however, that a recently submitted hiring plan calls for using all the federal money and he anticipates that it will be used.