Published 12:43 pm Saturday, October 8, 2016

Several weeks ago, we began seeking information pertaining to what we felt were dubious spending decisions made by the leadership of Franklin City Public Schools. Of primary interest was information regarding a leadership retreat for central office staff and building leaders, as well as the new electronic sign that has been installed behind J.P. King Middle school on Second Avenue.

For the record, the retreat, which took place in Norfolk over a three-day period from Aug. 9-11, cost city taxpayers $5,718.75. Of that, $5,196.26 was spent on meals and lodging for two nights at the Wyndham Garden Norfolk Downtown, and an additional $522.49 was spent on dinner the night of Aug. 10 at the restaurant Freemason Abbey.

The sign, which sits at such an angle that it can only be seen by those traveling eastward on Second Avenue, was purchased from Stewart Signs of Sarasota, Florida, at a cost of $11,814.

It seemed to us that such unnecessary expenditures, especially for a school system that is constantly running short on money, should be brought to the attention of the taxpayers who are footing the bills.

Little did we know that these two items would pale in comparison to the news this week that the school budget for 2015-2016 had been overspent by $480,000.

For several years now, we have been highly critical of the city’s school board and school superintendents, with a mountain of documentation to substantiate the criticism. We haven’t been critical because of a particular dislike for any of the individuals who have been at the helm in recent years, but because our school leadership has proven itself time and again to be utterly inept.

This most recent misstep falls into a category far more significant than most previous gaffes. In fact, what has taken place is in direct violation of state law. As we reported in Friday’s front-page news story on the matter, anyone responsible for overspending the school budget is guilty of malfeasance in office. Webster’s dictionary defines malfeasance as “illegal or dishonest activity especially by a public official or a corporation,” meaning this half-a-million dollars overspend is not just a simple mistake, but possibly also a crime.

We have called for the resignation or removal of school board members and superintendents in the past, and we do so again here now. Too many of our city’s leaders — whether they be elected officials or business and civic leaders — have stood idly by long enough, witnessing at arm’s-length the destruction of a once-prized school system without so much as a word.

From this point forward, it is our view that their silence makes them complicit in our schools’ decline. We urge in the strongest terms possible that action be taken to remove the sitting school board and purge the central office while there is anything left worth salvaging.