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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Total School Solutions Wreaks Havoc for Waterford School District As Well

As we continue our series on the impact of former CBO Tahir Ahad and his prviate educational consulting company, Total School Solutions (TSS), it is important to note that TSS has contracts and projects in districts across the state of California and beyond. Their webpage lists as clients, 61 such districts including, Waterford Unified School District.

Waterford is a small town of approximately 8,500 just east of Modesto. On Sunday, March 2, 2008, the Modesto Bee ran an investigative report about fiscal mismanagement performed by their Superintendent Howard Cohen and his relationship with Total School Solutions.

If the name Howard Cohen rings a bell for some readers, it should, he was Principal at Davis High School, and worked for our district for a number of years.

To the best that I can approximate, his time in Davis did not coincide with Tahir Ahad--although accounts vary and that is one thing that is being checked into.

It seems more likely that Howard Cohen who moved on to the West Contra Costa County District met Mr. Ahad there. West Contra Costa County was the location of early TSS contracts and a district that has supplied Mr. Ahad with a number of his non-DJUSD employees.

Nevertheless, the Modesto Bee article describes irregularities in the Waterford School District financial practices. Waterford much like DJUSD now finds itself facing a 10 percent budget cut.

In the meantime a report finds three main areas of unauthorized and/ or unexpected payments:
"Stipends totaling $25,000 paid to two principals over two years, Jose Aldoca and Don Davis

Administrative pay raises of 5.2 percent, including a raise for Superintendent Howard Cohen, that were paid five months before the board approved them

A contract with a Bay Area consulting firm, Total School Solutions, was ratified as a $33,000 agreement to polish the district's master plan but turned out to be an open-ended contract that cost the district $124,000 before it was canceled with the work unfinished."
It appears upon hiring Mr. Cohen, who still resides in Walnut Creek and commutes to Waterford (there are questions as to whether or not he works full time), that a number of TSS employees were unwittingly hired as staff or consultants.

The Vanguard has received information that suggests there is more to the situation in Waterford than what was reported in the Modesto paper. Much of it is similar to what happened here in Davis, and what has been reported is merely the tip of the iceberg.

The Vanguard will continue to monitor and possibly investigate this situation as conditions warrant.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting