Board asked to invest money for scholarships

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Some Austin High School high-distinction students who graduate receive scholarships for as little as $2.

Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Some Austin High School high-distinction students who graduate receive scholarships for as little as $2.

Email newsletter signup

Mike Ruzek wants to change that.

Ruzek, an Austin businessman, addressed the Austin Board of Education Monday night about the district’s investment policy.

He suggested the district give up "ownership" of monies donated to Austin Public Schools for scholarships to allow their investment and the anticipated higher return of interest.

Ruzek said he wants the school district to exercise "good stewardship of contributors’ monies."

"How can we better serve the contributors and the students?" is how Ruzek described the purpose of his request.

Lori Volz, director of business services, said legal restrictions prevent the district from maximizing its investments of contributions for scholarships.

Ruzek said the district could give up ownership of the monies to a public foundation that would invest money, earn a higher rate of interest and protect the monies for the district while giving it full control of the monies.

David Simonson, chairman of the school board, admitted the scholarship monies sometimes given to high-distinction students from the district’s investment program result in embarrassingly low scholarships as low as $2.

Simonson and other school board members supported Ruzek’s effort to help the district change that and the request will be studied.

Ruzek also got the school board’s attention on another matter.

A year ago, when school district voters went to the polls in November, they had 17 candidates to choose from.

The district’s voters were dissatisfied with the previous school administration and the apparent "rubber stamp" of approval from the school board at the time.

Fueling the dissatisfaction was gross mismanagement of school district funds, including allegations of not counting the number of fifth-graders in the school district when applying for student aid, plus a deficit that soared into the high six figures.

Four incumbents lost bids for re-election, the former superintendent resigned, other school administration changes were made and a newly reorganized school board vowed to make more changes.

At the same time, a levy override referendum also was approved by voters in the district, but not without worries it would not pass because of taxpayers’ misgivings about the school finance and administrative situation.

Despite the well-publicized campaigns of a number of citizens seeking school board positions, the then-incumbent school board members refused to do the necessary paper work that would have allowed a September primary election to reduce the field of candidates.

Despite announcing that would be done, the school board members admitted Monday night it hasn’t.

"A year ago, there was a need for a primary," Ruzek said. "To hold a primary would have served our Democratic system."

At Monday night’s meeting, Simonson said, "Yes, you’re right" and said again the matter would be investigated.