Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fayette School Board gets an earful at first public meeting since auditor's report

This from the Herald-Leader:
As people at a school board meeting on Monday spoke out about a state auditor's finding of chronic mismanagement of finances in Fayette County Public Schools, Superintendent Tom Shelton said he was assuming direct supervision of the budget and finance departments.

Monday night's session was the first regular school board meeting since Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen released findings last Wednesday that previous budgets were inaccurate, unbalanced and contained errors that contributed to the need for cuts in the 2014-15 budget. Edelen's special examination of district finances said district staff had given the board insufficient information.

"As a school board you have been duped in so many ways," James Hurley told board members in encouraging them to exercise proper oversight.

Two parents of students in the district — Todd Wright and John Daugherty — questioned the information included in monthly financial statements.

Daugherty said his concern was that financial statements provided to the board were not accurate and do not provide the board enough information "to exercise its oversight responsibility."

Board member Amanda Ferguson said the concerns addressed by citizens who spoke at the board meeting, "echoed what I've been hearing for six days."

Ferguson and board member Doug Barnett have said they had concerns about Shelton's ability to lead given the auditors findings. Board members John Price, Melissa Bacon and Daryl Love have said they think Shelton should continue to lead.

The report blamed the district's financial issues in part on a poor working relationship between Financial Services Director Rodney Jackson and Budget Director Julane Mullins, who made the allegations that led to the auditor's nearly four-month investigation.

Shelton said Monday that Mullins and Jackson would now report directly to him "so I can have direct involvement as we move forward to deal with the issues."

Previously, the two had reported to the district's chief operating officer, Mary Wright.

Edelen found no missing money or criminal wrongdoing but weaknesses in budget and financial-management processes were among 10 key findings.

Mullins, in allegations sent to the board and the state auditor in May, said the district's current $20 million shortfall was caused by irregular accounting but worsened with "numerous acts of mismanagement."

Shelton has said he would address every single issue raised in the report, even though he had questioned the accuracy and fairness of some of Edelen's findings. He said the district's response would be "swift" and would result in an overhaul of the district's budget and finance system. Board members were given what Shelton described as improved financial statements at Monday's meeting.
Shelton said he was discussing the possibility of an organization called Bluegrass Community Foundation managing trusts now controlled by the district. Edelen's report raised concerns over whether a trust left to the district in 1961 by a former teacher — called the Stoner Trust — was being used in accordance with its charter.

In addition to requesting that Edelen investigate, Mullins and Shelton asked the state Office of Education Accountability to review Mullins' allegations.

Karen Timmel-Hatzell, the acting director of OEA had said her office, which looks at violations of laws affecting schools, was waiting until Edelen finished his investigation to act. On Monday she told the Herald-Leader that her staff was still reviewing Edelen's report.

Also on Monday, the board approved an approximately $421 million general fund working budget.
In May, after months of contentious debate, board members approved cuts to the 2014-15 budget that totaled $17.5 million instead of the $19.1 million that Shelton had proposed earlier.

When the board approved the tentative budget in May, Shelton made a proposal to cut 50.5 full-time positions at Central Office and 60 certified and 30 classified positions at the school level. He also made a proposal to cut 97 special education aides and add seven special education teachers.

Spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said that since staffing numbers are based on the actual students who are enrolled, district officials did not have current numbers on the actual number of positions that had been reduced readily available.

But she said that all positions reduced in the budget were covered by attrition.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/09/22/3442858_faytte-school-board-gets-an-earful.html?sp=/99/322/&rh=1#storylink=cpy


Anonymous said...

We need to stop focusing on "missing money" and look at other things the audit exposed. How can the superintendent violate board policy and then push for policy to be changed so he doesn't break it again? How is this not deceptive? Also, Rodney Jackson wrote a check back to the district for monies he used to pay for his own education- right before the audit was released- monies that not every one knew existed?

Shelton's and the COO's lack of oversight and leadership helped cause this mess. How can a finance director keep his job when he KNOWINGLY took money from the district? How can the board leave the fox in the hen house?

This whole thing is a terrible, terrible thing and has left a wake of broken trust and exposed people for who they really are. Personalities aside. I urge every one to write their board member and demand action.

Anonymous said...

We have definitely hit a new low in public administration when the new criterion for successful progression of the FCPS system and support for continued (mis)leadership by its top administration is that central office turns out, in the final analysis, not to be a criminal organization.

Funny how this is the propaganda being continually emphasized and neither Shelton nor Shelton's supporters on the BOE essentially have said squat about plans for improving future education. The only plans that they seem to have is to conjure up as many ways as possible to assist in covering their asses.

The primary activity at CO seems to constantly be: (1) do something really stupid then (2) figure out some way either to cover it up, or (3) attempt to come across as appearing completely innocent (by pretending you have no idea what the hell is going on around you even though you are the one in charge), or (4) find someone else (at taxpayer's expense) to try to fix the problem that was created my your own mismanagement in the first place and/or (5) come up with some inane idea as to how you might attempt to fix it yourself - an idea that is unlikely to work, will simply waste lots of $$$, and will likely make things even worse.

This apparently pretty much sums up the workings at FCPS Central Office.

Sharon Mofield-Boswell said...

The Stoner Trust monies should be managed elsewhere and should only be available to classroom teachers and kids...period. I know MANY teachers and I feel sure Ms. Stoner, like the teachers I know today, would not have wanted her trust being utilized in any other way than to help kids. In addition, the details of the trust, names of committee members and meeting minutes absolutely must be made available to the public.

Anonymous said...

What happens when your board member doesn't give a flying flip about the results if the audit? My board member sure doesn't. In fact, my board member only cares about micro-managing a particular high school.

I guess I have no recourse?

Anonymous said...

All positions reduced in the budget were NOT covered by attrition. There were multiple people who recieved pink slips; including people who worked at the warehouse and at IAKSS. Most, if not all, had less of 5 years employment, but none of them wanted to leave their positions.

Anonymous said...

If the harassment, bullying, and strongarming are not dealt with after this audit I don't see how community trust could possibly be restored.

Tom has been told by numerous people that this is a bug problem in Financial Services. Rodney allows his Associate Directors to manage terribly, speak to staff with unnecessary rudeness (Tracy Dennis), and miss work without turning in leave forms.

How does Tracy Dennis go from an Administrative Assistant at previous job to Benefit Coordinator at FCPS to Associate Dir in 1 fiscal year? Her management skills are terrible and she uses fml to find ways to fire employees.

People have to speak out!