Audit&Finance Committee (Audit) - from June 7, 2011
- in the minutes from the May 10th meeting, we learn that there were 20 applications for the Internal Auditor (that the district needs to fill soon so it does not keep having these poor audits). They were interviewing and it is stated they may need a second round of interviews. Since there has been no announcement a month later, I wonder if no one was selected after all.
- Also there was note that a flyer would be distributed to incoming K parents about Pay for K but no date when that might happen.
- Director DeBell brought up the issue of daily attendance and state compensation (meaning the Legislature is considering tying the two together) and how it would be a burden to the district. Duggan Harmon said that there is a new focus at the district on accuracy and said there was no real definition of what is an excused absence. OSPI is to come up with one and then in January (2012) districts will have to report their levels of unexcused absences. So the State won't be looking at daily reporting but an average monthly report. He concluded that there is always the chance the Legislature may use this for school funding purposes.
- Kathie Technow from Accounting went over the sole source contract as well as debarment for vendors for personal services contracts. Vendors must meet the invoice criteria or they won't be paid. Betty Patu pressed her about how the district knows, for certain, that the work has been done. Kathie seemed a bit surprised at the question and said managers check before payment is authorized. (I think Betty's question was around the issues of Pottergate and that many vendors did work that was never really checked on by anyone and if it was, it still got paid for even if the work was less than what was contracted for.) Michael DeBell asked about writing in the contract about possible debarment of vendors if they don't comply with auditor requests. Kathie said the language hadn't been written yet but they were working on it. One of our new volunteers to the A&F Committee, Joe Paperman, said that language in a form or contract is very important and to spell everything out clearly.
- Sherry asked about some audit items that had been listed for months and asked what it was going to take to close some items out. She clearly wanted an action plan.
- It was also announced that Ronic Loric is the new Audit Response Manager. I think Mr. Loric is one of those unsung heroes of the district who just does good work. He is always prepared at meetings and tried to answer the Directors questions clearly.
- It was announced that Exit Conference for the 2009-2010 Accountability Audit is June 29th from 4-5 p.m., immediately preceding the Work Session on the Budget/Capacity Management from 5-6:30 p.m. (I will just take this moment to ask why a Work Session EVER covers two topics? Especially something like Budget that you are trying to get out the door. Maybe they will just announce they are reopening Fairmount Park Elementary and then move onto the Budget.)
It was a bit depressing to see this list as there are six of them and well, it means a ton of work for staff addressing the 56 findings and 117 recommendations in less than 3 years.
However, the report also showed that two of them (Performance Audit on adm/support services and Performance Audit for travel services have both completed their recommendations. As well on the Financial/Federal single audit/accountability is 96% completed.
The other ones have completed the following:
Performance Audit- Construction Management (BEX) 50%,
Special Investigation-Small Business Works 8% and
Financial/Federal Single Audit (2009-2010) is 33%
The administrative team from Cleveland High came to report out about the high number of lost/stolen laptops from Cleveland (as every 9th/10th grader gets one as part of the STEM program).
They spent just over $1M for 3 years for 890 laptops for Cleveland per the NTN contract. Just over 10% of the laptops sustained damage or loss. The 10% isn't so unusual but they are not recovering the laptops at the rate they anticipated.
Enrollment at Cleveland was 800 with 440 laptops for those 2010-2011 9th/10th graders and 375 left over. (Obviously, not enough for all the students who are coming in for 2011-2012.) Also, apparently there is some degree of friction between the upper and lower classes over who received a laptop and who didn't. (This was an issue when the New School Foundaiton was doing work at TT Minor and it was not school-wide. Some parents felt their children were being left out.)
Under the state RCW, the district can't charge a non-refundable desposit for damage or loss (but could charge a refundable one). They can't charge a damage deposit for F/RL and that is 70% of the students at Cleveland. Currently, students who do lose their laptop (or it is damaged) have to "work off" the cost at school at minimum wage.
The district got a contract from a company called Compu-Trace that was to track the laptops. Apparently damage is not the big issue here but loss is. (either theft or misplacement). 57 were lost or stolen, most left in a classroom. They report this to police and school security. Computrace has found a total of 1 laptop. (They are apparently embarrassed and sending a tech to try to figure out why their tracing abilities are so lacking.)
The district went with CompuTrace because they believed it would be cheaper than insurance (but it doesn't look that way at this point).
-CompuTrace hasn't been able to quickly recover lost laptops.
-the asset tags are too easy to peel off and they are thinking of engraving the info on the laptop
-Shoreline district had this problem the first year they handed out laptops
-they need to develop a sense of ownership among students
-NTN really likes the laptop model for project-based learning.
Michael was quick to point out that any losses should be reported to the State Auditor. He also questioned if the laptops are sustainable if we are not recovering them at the expected rate. Staff said the enrollment was beyond their original projection and so they went beyond their budget. Betty asked about the number of thefts from the school locker-room and asked about keeping it locked. They have gone to that measure even though it is more difficult because they don't have anyone to monitor the locker-room.
Joe Paperman asked about whether students might not be reporting theft because of the police hassle students/parents might face. He pointed out that the reports have been made more at school even though students are off campus more of the time. Good catch.
It was suggested that they tell the students they will have a raffle of something like an X-Box for all students who return their laptops. Or maybe, get them lighter models as there were some complaints about the weight.
(My notes reflect - seriously? Hey kids, you are getting a free laptop to use. Be grateful and no whining about the weight. There is no other school with this benefit in SPS and I'd think between the school and the parents these kids might understand the responsibility they have to their family and school (and future Cleveland students) to take care of these laptops.)
Michael said he sensed some hesitation to get all students to follow-thru on working off damage fines. The principal said no and she would use her own time to make sure it got done (as staff has to oversee work). There was some doubt expressed over continuing to use CompuTrace.
Then was the update from IT from Jim Ratchford. He was kind enough to give a careful report about our old friend, the VAX.
He said there was a "pre-2008 approach" and a "post-2008 approach" to the VAX. (I'd have to check but I think he came on-board late 2008-early-2009.) He said that because of that, it would be difficult to get enough history for a "lessons learned."
He said that it appeared that staff didn't want to acknowledge the complexity of the issue of migrating off the VAX and the operational and staffing issues with doing so with the NSAP. He said staff felt like they shouldn't call attention to issues.
On the positive side, he said they have a program manager and are breaking down the silos and maintaining the scope. He said they had a fairly positive first release of the NSAP.
But he said pre-2008, they were only "nipping around the edges" of the problem - he called it a lot of drift but no focus.
Michael said the Board had repeatedly asked about this. Mr. Ratchford seemed to think that over 7 years they got value for $12M (apparently that's what it cost to migrate off - kinda takes your breath away).
Michael said he just didn't understand why it too so long and that it hindered governance changes. He asked about leadership churn in IT as there were 3 people before Mr. Ratchford.
Ratchford acknowledged that it needed more transparency and he couldn't clearly address what came before. He also said that the NSAP propelled the move forward but was a challenge. Michael said he felt if was this endless circle of wanting to change the assignment plan with the VAX being a huge issue to overcome (or so the Board was told).
Ratchford stated that he didn't understand why VAX had been a barrier and it was hard for him to imagine why someone would have said that to the Board. (Let that one sink in everyone who has been in the district for awhile. How many times were we told that reason we were still on the VAX?)
Michael said the district cannot every allow technology to constrain district work. He said there needed to be institutional knowledge of this period so it didn't happen again.
Betty - ever Betty - asked if the district was completely off the VAX. No, they aren't. There are still some archived records. Ratchford said maybe there's a photo op in there for the Board when they are finally off it. Wry smiles all around.
Pay for K
The district is going to have K parents set up automatic withdrawals from their checking accounts for Pay for K. This will start (hopefully) in August. They will be sending many reminders to parents about the program and how it will work. (There was a curious statement made about "the enrollment system shuts down for awhile in the summer" which I'll have to ask Tracy Libros about. If there's one department you'd think would be operating in the summer, it would be enrollment.)
One issue around Pay for K is that many families would be eligible for F/RL but don't apply or don't know that sometimes the level changes and that they should apply again the next year. The issue is that if parents don't pay, it will go to collections. This is an embarrassment and hardship for parents who are near the F/RL lunch rate and they want to prevent this as much as possible.
It was explained that there were 1760 students at Title One schools with 800 being F/RL. The money is NOT subsidizing Title One school costs.