Irvine just gave a $1 million challenge grant to support Irvine and Tustin public schools. The last time such a grant was made, things didn’t go so well.

In 2008, just like this year, the city of Irvine gave $900,000 to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, which was to come up with a matching grant and forward all the money to the Irvine Unified School District.

When the foundation came up with a matching grant, instead of forwarding the grant money to the district, the foundation let it sit in a bank account where it accrued interest, according to an email from City Manager Sean Joyce to Councilwoman Christina Shea.

Last week the city council approved another challenge grant for classroom support. The approved grant is to allow teachers more time for their students by providing classroom aides.

In 2008, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation promised to raise $900,000 to match the city’s donation. In May 2008, the foundation indicated it had $500,000 in reserves and would raise an additional 400,000 to match the city. With those assurances, the city approved the grant.

But then in July 2008, Jerry Mandel, who at the time was the CEO of the foundation, notified the city that the foundation had only raised an additional $204,000.

The city agreed to forward matching funds totaling $704,000, and Mandel signed an affidavit saying that the city’s matching funds “will be donated by the Irvine Public Schools Foundation to the Irvine Unified School District.”

However, an email to Shea from Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce states that the district didn’t get the money until December 2008. The email also says the foundation accrued interest while the money sat in the foundation’s bank account. Shea estimated the amount earned in interest was probably around $15,000. That money did not go to the district.

That money, Shea said, should not have stayed in the foundation’s bank account. “The foundation was supposed to be a pass-through organization,” She said.

Neda Zaengle, the foundation’s current CEO, said she does not know the details surrounding the previous grant. “I wasn’t here back when there were all these issues raised,” she said.

Mayor Sukhee Kang brushed Shea’s claims aside as “politically motivated,” and said that although he doesn’t know what happened to the interest money the foundation accrued, how the foundation chose to operate was its own business.

“That kind of side note will only marginalize what the city is trying to do in this downturn economy,” Kang said.

Zaengle said she is looking into where the interest money ended up and will get back to me when she finds out.

“We have no other interest other than getting all the money to the district,” she said.

Stay tuned . . .


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