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School office renovation swells to $100,000 modernization


A $10,000 project to renovate the Anne Arundel school superintendent's office has mushroomed into a modernization of the school system's central offices that cost nearly $100,000.

Shortly after Carol S. Parham became acting superintendent in 1993, she decided that the six offices in the executive section of the system's Riva Road headquarters needed the privacy of walls instead of movable partitions. The renovations cost about $10,000.

Over the next 18 months, school officials spent:

* $27,330 to provide offices for four new employees recommended by investigators who probed a teacher-student sex scandal, and to expand existing offices.

* $46,900 for renovations at the school system-owned complex in Millersville to make room for 100 workers who would transfer from the crowded headquarters building.

* $13,000 to install new telephone equipment for the food-service division, which is moving out of the Riva Road headquarters and leasing space in the county's Heritage Center to help relieve crowding. The division leases the space at $1,800 a month. But because it uses profits from food sales to offset expenditures, the lease costs county taxpayers nothing, said Ronald L. Beckett, associate superintendent for support services.

"It evolved. It's a work in progress," Mr. Beckett said. "This has been going on for 18 or 20 months, so the money has been distributed over two budgets. It's not like we took it all out of one budget."

Money for the renovations came in part from operating budget accounts within the maintenance division and from various other accounts, Mr. Beckett said. The money had not been earmarked for other projects, he said.

The price of the renovations does not include the wages and overtime paid to school maintenance employees, who did most of the work, or the cost of adjusting the building's heating and ventilation system, Mr. Beckett said.

Much of the furniture for the offices was donated by area businesses or purchased through furniture rental agencies that sell used furniture, he said.

"We did it on the cheap," Mr. Beckett said.

The telephone equipment at the Heritage Center is part of a new, $100,000 system already included in the school system's operating budget, Mr. Beckett said. For the next five years, the school system will pay for the telephone system in installments, but it will save about $6,000 a year compared with current expenditures.

"After it's paid off, we'll save $32,400 a year," Mr. Beckett said.

In a Feb. 27 staff memo to Dr. Parham, Mr. Beckett and Kenneth Lawson, another associate superintendent, laid out the reasons the project mushroomed.

Among the reasons were a personnel reorganization, a need for "equals" to have the same amount of work space and "strong encouragement" from Thomas Twombly, then the school board president, to give the building a face lift in 1993.

Dr. Parham could not be reached yesterday.

Mr. Twombly, now the board's vice president, said he ordered the staff to clean up cluttered work areas at the height of a teacher-student sex scandal, but he denied requesting renovations.

"I said, 'Clean up Riva Road,' and how 'Clean up Riva Road' got translated into renovations, I don't have a clue," Mr. Twombly said. "If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable."

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