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Did Richmond Schools purchase 20,000 extra laptops? Depends on who you ask.

Posted at 4:29 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 18:29:53-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Public Schools Senior Internal Auditor Milton Parker told the Richmond School Board Monday night "there needs to be a huge clean up" with regard to how the school system manages and distributes Chromebooks to students.

Parker presented the results of his audit into the school system's Chromebooks that were purchased using Federal CARES act dollars when the pandemic started.

He found more than 20,000 laptops, worth $5.8 million, were never assigned to any students and called them "an excessive number of devices."

But Richmond School Board member Liz Doerr, who represents the 1st District, disputed that number. She said Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras believed RPS only bought between 25,000 and 26,000 computers, not 44,000, so there was no way 20,000 spare laptops could be sitting around.

Kamras confirmed that's the amount he thought RPS purchased.

RPS Chromebook audit.png

"I don't believe we have purchased 44,000 Chromebooks during the pandemic," Kamras said in an interview Tuesday. "It's not my recollection from the conversations I was in. If I am wrong, I am wrong and I will say I am wrong, my understanding is we purchased 25-26,000."

"I thought the use of excessive devices in storage illustrated a little bit of bias," Doerr told the auditor. "I do think it was a little misleading to the public because the public now thinks we have 20,000 laptops sitting in storage that we haven't given to kids, and I think as we've just illustrated from this discussion that's not the case."

"Well if I may," Parker replied. "As we know right now we do have 20,000 machines. Until the process is carried all the way out these machines are not being reconciled there is no inventory process."

Parker also found that of the nearly 22,000 laptops assigned to students, more than 1,800 of them are still in the possession of former or inactive students. He said that was because there did not seem to be a formal process in place to monitor the collection of Chromebooks when students either left RPS or went home for summer break.

He also said over 2,000 students had between two and five laptops assigned to each of them, and there was not a process in place to retrieve Chromebooks from students who never returned their previously issued device.

Instead, RPS just handed them another computer.

"This is 101 organizational management. There has been a breakdown in processes and procedures that do not exist equitably at each school," School Board Chair Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed, who represents the 6th District, said.

Parker said RPS hired a third-party contractor to handle the purchasing and deployment of laptops and he confirmed with them multiple times that their records show RPS had 44,000 laptops.

"TIG does all of the purchasing for us, so we could send in an order say hey we need more and they will just purchase more," Parker said. "This is the problem or risk with having very loose controls."

"We are going to go through it and see, and whatever it is it is, and again we will put it all out there, and if things need to be changed with asset management the auditor laid out a number of things I'm very grateful for that we are making those changes as well," Kamras said.

Richmond School Board member Nicole Jones, who represents the 9th District, requested procurement documentation that showed how many actual computers were purchased since 2020.

She said she wanted that information by the next school board meeting.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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