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You Paid For It: School textbooks bought and never used

You Paid For It: School textbooks bought and never used

By Darcy Spears. CREATED May 17, 2012

Clark County, NV (KTNV) -- The Clark County School District is facing a $63 million shortfall. 

With drastic budget cuts, more than a thousand teachers about to lose their jobs and schools told to pinch every penny, it's no wonder the school distrct doesn't want you to see what Contact 13 uncovered.

Chief Investigator Darcy Spears blows the whistle on waste in a "You Paid for It" investigation.

Books, books, and more books. Not in the hands of students. Not being used to teach. Just gathering dust in a classroom where the Academy for Individualized Study high school used to be.

"I was surprised when I went into that room and I saw the massive amount of books that were there, because we already had thousands and thousands of books in the main office," explains
Elena Rodriguez, who was an AIS administrator in the 2010-2011 school year.

"We got a huge order of biology books while I was there -- and I saw the purchase order was worth thousands and thousands of dollars," Rodriguez said. 

In addition to what we found in about a dozen rolling cabinets, the room holds more than a hundred boxes of new books. Some them have never even been opened.

We found Spanish study guides, books on World Literature and Personal Finance and Environmental Science books still in cellophane.

There was a cabinet full of Culinary Essentials books and the one next to it held Psychology and Sociology texts.  Another was full of hardcover science books that had just never even been opened.

"They just became a fixture," said another District employee who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

"When we're in budget cuts as it is and people losing their jobs and pay freezes... to have that kind of waste... it's bad.  It's sick."

AIS moved out of the old Bishop Gorman campus last July, leaving all those books behind. Contact 13 discovered the books seven months later. And we found many of the boxes had been sitting for years.

Some were dated as far back as 2008 and even 2006.

Darcy: "You can't keep textbooks around for too long.  They become outdated and no longer useful."
Elena: "Correct. So it's a waste of taxpayer money."

And get this: AIS requires a $100 cash textbook deposit from every student.

Darcy: "The students had to pay a textbook deposit fee to get the books at that school, yet they've got a room full of books that are going to nobody?"
Elena: "Exactly.  It's not only adding insult to injury it's actually abusing the students. I think it's abusing their parents as taxpayers."

When we sat down with district spokesperson Amanda Fulkerson in February, we asked about the book fee.

"Absolutely we charge a book deposit fee because we want those books to come back because we want that program to keep on going," Fulkerson said.

Students who damage or don't return textbooks forfeit their $100 deposit. 

But what about school officials who buy books on the taxpayers' dime and never use them?  The District didn't want to answer that.

Soon after we started asking about the books, the current employee says, "They disappeared.  They just disappeared after that.  Quickly.  And they probably went to the warehouse where they're probably still sitting."

We asked district leaders to show us around the warehouse, but they wouldn't.

They sent a written statement saying the "books being stored by AIS are free workbooks that were received by the school with a purchased order."

There may be some free workbooks in the boxes we discovered, but when we asked about all the textbooks in those cabinets, the District didn't respond.

"I think we deserve an answer.  These books should be sitting on desks, in classrooms, in the hands of students," said Javier Trujillo, Chairman of the Board for the Latin Chamber of Commerce.

We showed him our video because his organization recently donated millions of dollars in textbooks to the District.

"When something like this comes to light, I would expect the District leaders to address this immediately.  At the end of the day these are purchased by taxpayer dollars.  That being you, myself, our families, student families... we need to know why there is a waste of dollars."

Darcy: "Why do you think they're not answering our questions about this?"
Employee: "I don't think they have an answer."
Elena: "Or they're just keeping their mouths shut hoping that everything will go away."

We wouldn't go away, so we called AIS Principal Anita Wilbur.

Darcy on phone: "Hi Anita, it's Darcy Spears from Channel 13.  I have a question for you about that room full of textbooks at the Bishop Gorman campus.  I have tried to get information from the public information office but they're unable to get answers and I know you're the one who has those answers so I'm trying to go to the source.  Hello?"

Principal Wilbur hung up on us. 

The lack of response from every district official we reached out to for this story flies in the face of Superintendent Dwight Jones' own pledge of accountability and transparency. 

Jones penned a newspaper article a few months ago where he wrote "in difficult situations, we must first own up to the truth... We owe it to our kids to be honest about where we need to improve." 

We're still wondering where the honesty is about that room full of unused books.

The district told Action News that AIS didn't use the free workbooks because they didn't meet students' needs at that time.

They say other CCSD schools were made aware that the workbooks were up for donation to any teacher or classroom that had a use for them.

We should note that the School District cut textbook allocations by fifty percent to balance this year's budget, and that has not been restored for the upcoming school year -- making it even more important for them to account for and use every book they have.

Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.