Cleaning up got pretty messy this summer at the Fort Worth Independent School District.
'This is really a sad tale that shouldn't have happened,' school board Trustee Judy Needham said. 'We are all scratching our heads and wondering how it did happen.'
She and the rest of the school board Saturday had to make a difficult decision: Whether to withhold pay for about 100 young people who spent their summer sprucing up schools.
'Cleaned restrooms, cleaned classrooms, cleaned libraries, cafeterias, wiped windows... just really the whole school,' said Kentrell Howard, who was a member of the Good Hands Crew.
Organized by The Rev. Kyev Tatum, the crew helped maintain 20 Fort Worth campuses over the summer vacation.
'I did a lot,' said 15-year-old crew member Imani Brown. She and the other young people were promised $8 an hour for their hard work.
But when the job was done, the district balked at paying the roughly $70,000 bill for services rendered.
Brown said even though she took pride in cleaning campuses in her school district, 'I felt disappointed, because we would have been working for nothing.'
But school leaders feel that the district and taxpayers were tricked. They maintain they originally denied the cleaning program, in part because there were no funds for it.
But some trustees said it appears the rejected idea may have been re-pitched to custodians at individual schools who unwittingly signed off on it.
Tatum, the organizer, maintains that he did have verbal approval for his project from Superintendent Walter Dansby, who has since resigned. Administrators said Tatum received multiple written statements that the proposed program had not been approved.
That's still being sorted out.
Meantime, the board announced a decision Saturday 'To pay the students and young adults who performed services.' The kids will get the $8 hourly rate they are due.
Education leaders acknowledge that the youngsters did a good job and that the district learned a good if expensive lesson.
Trustees were critical of 'Reverend Tatum's unilateral decision to proceed with the program without District authorization and without complying with Board policies,' and asked administrators 'to consider any and all legal remedies' to obtain reimbursement for the unplanned expenditure.