By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Numbers game: Ooo, looky here. In Buzz's hands we have a copy of an investigation report from Dallas Independent School District's Office of Professional Responsibility. It's labeled "highly confidential," and it's about how some ne'er-do-wells at DISD submitted false Social Security numbers to a state agency—fake numbers for foreign nationals, no less.
Could we have at last found Osama Bin Laden? DISD headquarters would be the perfect place for him to hide. It's much comfier than a cave, and the folks there can't keep track of anything.
Sadly, as we read the report, which is dated September 25 and was obtained by the Observer through a public records request, things turn out not to be that sexy. It's just another dreary DISD SNAFU.
Here's the deal: In 2004, DISD asked the State Board of Educator Certification to help process and run background checks on foreign nationals who applied to teach at DISD, which needed teachers who could speak foreign languages. Some of the applicants had not yet obtained Social Security numbers, and in those cases the prospective employees were supposed to be assigned an alternative number beginning with the letter "P." That way, the state board and district could replace the provisional number once the employees got their Social Security cards.
Only, for some reason, instead of choosing a "P" number, someone at the district decided to issue the foreign teachers random numbers that looked just like legitimate Social Security numbers. That, of course, made it harder for the state to figure out which numbers were real and also made it tougher to do background and criminal record checks. Some false numbers were recorded on Homeland Security forms.
A check of DISD payroll records and Social Security Administration records turned up 192 instances where the district's payroll records didn't match Social Security data. Twenty-six of those cases were caused by fake numbers for foreign nationals, the report says.
Providing fake SSNs to a state agency is against the law, by the way.
Nothing in the investigative report suggests there was anything nefarious going on, and the district has since cleaned up its procedures. This is merely another instance of the sort of bizarre, unfathomable bureaucratic bookkeeping boo-boos that continually haunt a district which, despite academic improvements, can't quite seem to get its management shit together. Lucky for us, the business community has pledged to step in and help clean things up, so now everything will be peachy. Yeah, they will.
Just in case, though, if your kid's Spanish teacher has a Middle Eastern accent and wears a keffiyeh, you might want to move him to private school.