Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen is turning over to law enforcement a special examination of the Fairview Independent School District in Boyd County that found questionable spending by the superintendent and excessive spending on athletics and non-instructional activities.
Edelen found that $360,000 in general fund money was transferred to school activity funds over three years with little or no board oversight.
The 63-page report, which will be referred to the Education Professional Standards Board and to law enforcement, "describes a tiny district in far northeastern Kentucky that allowed its athletics and other activities to deficit spend with no oversight, and then plugged any holes with money that could've been used for instructional purposes at the end of the year," a news release said.
The report alleges that the superintendent, now retired, circumvented board oversight, used a district credit card to pay for personal expenses and authorized a 32 percent pay raise for one employee. A sporting-goods contract was entered into without board approval, and the board did not consistently perform superintendent evaluations required by state law.
Fairview district officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Throughout the audit, several district staff reported that the superintendent, who is retiring this month, intimidated staffers so they wouldn't question his decisions or discuss his actions, the news release said.
"I appreciate school pride and share the insatiable enthusiasm Kentuckians have for their high school sports, but these were not responsible, grown-up decisions that were being made," Edelen said.
The district has fewer than 900 students, and 70 percent of them qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. Teacher salaries and benefits as a percentage of total spending are the lowest among Kentucky's 173 public school districts.
"Do these kids deserve to take a fun senior trip and have well-supported sports programs that can compete with those in bigger districts? Absolutely," Edelen said. "But that doesn't trump our responsibility to provide them with a solid education and pay teachers a decent wage."
The report detailed how excessive spending on the football program probably resulted in the school district violating Title IX requirements. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally financed education program or activity. The district demonstrated a disregard for the law by under-reporting football spending by at least $148,260 and reporting inaccurate amounts for other sports, the news release said.
The Kentucky Department of Education will review the audit and will take appropriate action, spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said.
In 2013, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association handed down sanctions to Fairview High School including the forfeiture of 19 football games over two seasons, having its 2012 Class 1A state runner-up finish vacated, and the suspension and removal of the football team from the 2013 state playoffs.