Las Vegas (KTNV) - At a time of unprecedented financial crisis, when our school district is facing a possible $80 million budget shortfall, our Contact 13 investigators found textbooks and equipment tossed in the trash at a local middle school.
It's got school staff and a state lawmaker asking just what the Clark County School District is doing with our tax dollars.
Common Core Math and English workbooks--some used, some new. Teachers' guides, three-ring binders, a hardcover thesaurus and more.
Not on desks or bookshelves, but in dumpsters at Fertitta Middle School at the beginning of summer break, mixed in with the garbage and landscape debris.
"Just 'gutting' is the only word that I could use. Unbelievable amounts of waste. We're talking stuff that could have been used again and it just makes me sick!" said a former teacher, whose identity we agreed to protect. The teacher says school administrators told staff to clean house and leave a clean slate for new staff in the Fall.
"It was just nightmarish. Things were being put out in the hall for the janitorial staff to have to dump and it was just piling and piling and it included things like equipment and furniture and things that were thousands of dollars and no one knew what to do!"
Seventeen teachers--twenty-seven percent of the teaching staff--left Fertitta at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
Those there during the shake-up say they were afraid to speak up.
"There are ramifications for whistleblowers and it lasts a long time in CCSD. It doesn't go away. It stays with you and it hurts careers and it ends careers."
The teacher says seeing stuff tossed in the trash was particularly hard because of their frequent out of pocket expenses for their classrooms.
"We're constantly spending our money on supplies. Supplies, supplies, supplies. And to see any of that dumped, gotten rid of... Colored pencils, erase board markers..."
It's a concern echoed by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson.
"We have teachers already going into their own pockets to buy resources, to buy books, to buy pencils and paper," Frierson said. "And so I don't know that I understand the notion of giving a new teacher a clean slate--if there are textbooks that are still current, then every resource a new teacher could use in a classroom we need to hold on to."
Fertitta's principal did not respond to our requests for comment and the district would not give us an on-camera interview.
In emails, they blame teachers for the waste--saying "School administrators were shocked to see this behavior and immediately put a stop to it. If usable items were placed in dumpsters at Fertitta, it was not approved by school administrators."
The district provided two pictures of items in the school theater they say administrators salvaged to be re-purposed.
CCSD also says it contracts with a company to sell back textbooks they no longer need.
In August, Fertitta got a check from that company for books they sold back. The total was $48.55.
"Do we need to look in that thesaurus to find another word for waste?" Chief Investigator Darcy Spears asked Assemblyman Frierson as they looked at photos and video Contact 13 obtained.
"I think we have plenty of words for waste and these pictures do show clearly that there's a concern that somebody cut some corners," Asm. Frierson answered.
He says what happened at Fertitta gives the school district's already tarnished financial image an even bigger black eye.
"We can't be reckless or careless with how we use the limited resources that we do have."
Frierson's concern grew when we showed him that what we found wasn't just at one location.
That story coming up as our coverage continues Tuesday on Action News at 6 p.m..
MORE FROM CCSD:
"Much of the information that has been provided to Channel 13 regarding "check-out day" at Fertitta Middle School is inaccurate and is likely a case of non-returning employees who were unhappy about having to fulfill their contractual obligations. Check-out day is a full contractual day where teachers are expected to work a full day. In addition, as part of check-out day, teachers are expected to clear their room in order for it to be ready for cleaning over the summer and for assignment next year. This is a standard operating procedure every year and the information is contained in the closing packet that staff were provided."
"For check-out day, teachers were instructed to put materials in the hallway for assessment. However, at no time were they instructed to throw these items away. If a teacher had unwanted supplies, they were asked to place these items in the hallway so that they could be taken and used by other teachers, or sent back to the District so that other schools could use the items. A few teachers took it upon themselves to throw items away as retribution for being required to fulfill their obligations regarding their work area and to work the full required contractual day. When the school administration became aware that a few members were inappropriately disposing of materials, administration retrieved items to go through the assessment process so that those items could be repurposed/reused."
"The principal did not approve of the throwing away of unopened materials or items in good working condition. Again, classrooms were required to be cleaned out, but the principal did not ask any staff members to throw items away. This is a common practice in our schools to prepare for deep cleaning during the summer.
Fertitta school administrators, including the principal, were stopping a few staff members from throwing items away. Our investigation found the opposite of what your sources are alleging. There were a few staff members placing items in large, black garbage bags. When this was noticed, the principal and other administrators stopped the staff members and took these items out of the garbage bags and asked the staff members to stop throwing perfectly good/reusable items away.
School administrators pulled out cases of books, games and fundraising items. School administrators were shocked to see this behavior and immediately put a stop to it. If usable items were placed in dumpsters at Fertitta, it was not approved by school administrators.
In the memo sent to teachers entitled "Closing of School - June 2017 Information and Procedures," no where does it say that materials should be thrown away. It instructs staff to identify "obsolete" text books so that the principal can determine next steps.
The district has a contact with Follett, a company that we sell text books back to. Follett provides the district and schools with credits to be used for future purchases and also with checks that can be cashed and used by schools and the district to purchase supplies. The selling of used items does not net much financially but it does allow us to dispose of items we no longer need."
District numbers related to Follett:
Calendar year 2016
Number of sites completed: 271 sites (schools sites that utilized Follett)