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The Price of Neglect

POSTED: 12:15 PM ET, 12/31/2007 by The Editors
TAGS: schools

The last installment for 2007 in The Post's investigation of the D.C. schools highlights one example of how school officials have wasted previous infusions of money.

The $80 million in brand new boilers that were installed in 50 school buildings in recent years were not properly maintained, and many of them have broken down or needed major repairs. Many of the problems could have been avoided if the school system had followed the basic maintenance need of removing minerals from the water going into the boilers. That preventive measure would have cost just $100,000 a year for all the schools.

By The Editors |  December 31, 2007; 12:15 PM ET D.C. Region
Previous: Senators Call for New Probe of Smithsonian | Next: Probe of Former Senator Is Dropped


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thank you for your continuing efforts to make DC a better place. It is a microcosm of the bigger world. If we can't fix the nation's capitol than why should federal government be involved in the business of regulating and funding education nationwide.

Posted by: chiefshamus | December 31, 2007 4:18 PM

Will there be penalties for employees who are assigned to schools to maintain the equipment/building? Employees are not accountable or responsive in this system. They sit around all day collecting a check - sort of like welfare! Teachers have to mop and sweep their own classrooms, mice, roaches, caked-up dirt everywhere. Employees with some integrity and common sense are blacked balled when they speak up or theu are actively seeking other employment. Congress needs to step in...

Posted by: Anonymous | January 7, 2008 10:18 AM

Everyone's instant reaction to the failure of Washington D.C.'s school board to properly manage their facilities was that familiar resigned indignation about public officials' competence. In fact, we should reserve most of our indignation for the failure of these public officials to acknowledge the limits of their expertise, and require that they seek out talented, knowledgeable advisors in water treatment enabling officials to make cogent, defensible arguments for funding requests.
The rest of our indignation should be spent on the public officials responsible for funding the right solutions to fund a flawed project (e.g. capital expenditure to purchase boilers but no operating expenses to provide water treatment). Another way of explaining the cause of the boiler failures is that all of these public officials failed to understand and measure risk. If they had understood the risk (i. e. what can go terribly wrong) of not funding the operating expenses for water treatment, they would not have blamed budget constraints. In my two decades as an industrial water consultant advising clients about managing the risk of failure, I have seen similar situations with even worse endings when funding decisions ignored risk. We should ask our public officials to take their responsibilities more seriously.

Posted by: Loraine Huchler, P.E., CMC | January 9, 2008 2:19 PM

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