Who’s in charge?

9/29/2017, 7:37 a.m.

It seems the Richmond School Board has been taken down the rabbit hole of secrecy yet again. And Thomas E. “Tommy” Kranz, Richmond Public Schools’ interim superintendent, may have a starring role in the latest drama.

First, it was $8.3 million hidden in an “unassigned fund balance” for RPS. The fund’s existence was revealed during the height of budget negotiations with the city after the school system had asked for an additional $16 million from city coffers.

Former Superintendent Dana T. Bedden never mentioned the $8.3 million to members of the School Board or Mayor Levar M. Stoney until March, angering parents, teachers, advocates and School Board members who had gone to the mat seeking more money to fix broken-down buildings, give pay raises to teachers and buy basic supplies missing in classrooms.

Mr. Kranz, a certified public accountant, was RPS’ chief operating officer at the time and knew about the secret fund.

Now as interim superintendent, Mr. Kranz apparently hired consultant Dallas Dance to help out until a new superintendent is named. Dr. Dance was paid $25,000 for a two-month stint.

Dr. Dance, a 36-year-old Armstrong High School graduate and former superintendent of Baltimore County Schools in Maryland, earlier was said to be in the running to replace Dr. Bedden.

The problem: School Board members were never informed about Dr. Dance’s hiring.

Once again, Mr. Kranz kept the board in the dark, even as he spends money without School Board knowledge. He can spend up to $250,000 on consultants without board consent.

We ask: What exactly did Dr. Dance do to get paid $12,500 a month? What did he accomplish in two months for RPS and its 24,000 students? Was this a trial run so that Dr. Dance could perform well during upcoming interviews for superintendent? Or was it job insurance for Mr. Kranz, building a cozy relationship with Dr. Dance early on so should Dr. Dance be selected as superintendent, he would keep Mr. Kranz on with RPS?  

As it turns out, Baltimore media reported early this week that Dr. Dance is being investigated by Maryland authorities for his relationship with an Illinois company, now defunct, that did business with the Baltimore County Schools while Dr. Dance was in charge. Dr. Dance had resigned from his post just days before Dr. Bedden and the Richmond School Board announced Dr. Bedden’s departure in late April.

What is Dr. Dance’s relationship with Mr. Kranz?

We don’t like the way this looks or smells.

In March, we questioned in this space what other secrets may be hidden by RPS that the School Board and the public don’t know about.

Now we know the latest.

Yet again we call for transparency and accountability on the part of Mr. Kranz and schools officials to disclose to the people of Richmond how our tax dollars are being spent, stashed or awarded.

And, again, we call for the School Board to get control, monitor the money and RPS employees before public trust in the school system continues to erode.

As elected officials, board members are accountable to the people. They, and Mr. Kranz, also are accountable to the parents whose children are entrusted to the schools each day. 

Mr. Kranz’s pattern of secrecy raises red flags about how the schools are operating and for whom. Politics, deals, hidden money and spending shouldn’t factor in, especially for RPS top brass. The children should be No. 1 in this equation.