The St. Joseph School District has shown improvement in a follow-up audit report from the state.
In February the district earned a “poor” rating in an audit that was critical of the district’s practices in a number of areas, including compensation, payroll procedures record-keeping and policies, summer school funding, the district’s financial condition, bonds, procurement procedures and construction projects.
The follow-up report, which does not include an overall rating, highlights steps the district has taken to implement audit recommendations.
“St. Joseph School District officials have used the audit process to improve operations and transparency across the district,” State Auditor Nicole Galloway said. “Although additional work is necessary, the district has made clear improvements over the past six months and I expect the community will continue to hold the district accountable as it moves forward.”
In the St. Joseph School District follow-up report, 22 out of 40 recommendations were selected for evaluation. At the time of the follow-up review, 10 recommendations were implemented and 12 recommendations were in progress.
“We have worked very hard this last few months to address these issues,” said Joey Austin, St. Joseph School District Director of Communications. “There are other areas that are in process and will require time and diligence to fully complete but we are confident that will happen.”
The district has made progress toward implementing recommendations to increase transparency and oversight of district compensation, appropriate personal use of district vehicles, and accuracy of vacation leave and pay.
Austin said the board of education approved a priority checklist to tackle the list of concerns in the audit report.
“We appreciate the patience of the St. Joseph School District staff, students and the St. Joseph Community as we work and continue through this process to correct the policies and procedures of the district that will make the district stronger and better than before,” Austin said.
The follow-up report said the district has successfully implemented findings related to Missouri Sunshine Law compliance; computer data backup and recovery systems; summer school attendance reporting; board approval for contracts and large purchases; supervision and review of payroll and time sheet activities; and bond proceed and expenditure accounting.
Significant issues of stipends were also addressed in the initial audit report finding that $25 million in stipends were paid over the last eight years that were “either unapproved, unauthorized or improper.” The total is estimated to be in excess of $40 million dating back to 2001. The follow-up said the district is currently working on the state’s recommendation to conduct a compensation study.
“The study will be conducted between May and September 2015 and results presented to the Board in October 2015. In January 2015, the Board adopted a salary schedule for the 2015-2016 school year that incorporated all previous administrator stipends into the base salary amounts,” the report stated. “The only additional compensation now available for administrators is for graduate degrees. The district also developed administrator contracts rather than continuing to use teacher contracts for the various administrative positions. Additional compensation for teachers and other staff was included in salary schedules approved by the Board.”
Nadia Thacker, KFEQ