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Of the more than 250 computers purchased in the last year with grant funding, a majority of the machines were distributed incorrectly, costing the Proviso Township High School District roughly $280,000 to correct the problem.

Superintendent Stan Fields said district administrators apparently knew in January that computers bought with federal money were not being used appropriately, but neglected to fix the problem. When he was hired by the district in August, Fields said the issue was highlighted as an immediate concern.

“Some of those computers purchased with grant funds may have found themselves in people’s homes,” Fields said.

A full inventory of the district’s grant-funded computers is being conducted, and according to the accounting thus far, two district employees were assigned a total of 11 computers for their secondary work stations and home use.

Money acquired through the Magnet School Assistance Program in the U.S. Department of Education was put toward 150 laptops for Proviso East and Proviso West. According to a recent accounting for those machines though, all but 10 were located at the Proviso Math and Science Academy.

Forty of the new computers are listed as “damaged,” or having a “cracked screen.”

Perkins grant funds used to by 113 Dell computers appeared to be assigned appropriately, Fields said.

In early September the district allocated roughly $280,000 from its contingency fund to buy new computers so that the original machines could be appropriately placed, Fields said.

Margo Umans is the assistant director of the East-West Magnet Program and oversees the use of grant funding for the program. Umans said the district is in the process of reassigning the machines so that students at East and West have the equipment necessary for several lab programs. Both high schools have two computer labs, Umans said, one stocked with Macintosh brands and one with PCs. Students use the computers for graphic art design, science and a host of other applications, Umans said.

Roughly one-third of the computers purchased with grants replaced older machines, she said.

Grant funding typically allows school districts to make purchases without spending the district’s own money. Fields said the district’s poor management fouled up what was essentially free money.

“I think it’s apparent that there wasn’t tight control or management over capital assets,” Fields said. “My guess is this isn’t limited to our hardware.”