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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Again? Again, the State Auditor Speaks (But Who's Listening?)

In the latest Accountability Audit Report from the State Auditor, we find that yet AGAIN the district AND the Board are out of compliance. (I know some of you might think that could be the case with many districts but my understanding is that the district is far and away the number one district with these issues.)

I didn't do a count but there were many instances where the audit states "in 2006", "2008", etc. that the district was told of compliance issues. So when and where does this big deal accountability come in for our district?

Here is the opening of the audit which is sobering:

Overarching Conclusion
Our audit found the School Board and executive management must improve oversight of
District operations. We noted several instances in which public assets were
misappropriated or susceptible to misappropriation due to lack of effective policies,
management’s failure to enforce existing policies and/or inadequately trained staff.

The Board and District management are not as familiar with state and federal law on
school district operations and on the use of grant funds as the public would expect. As a result, the District exposes itself to greater risk of loss of federal funds and increases therisk for non-compliance with laws and regulations.

Further, the School Board delegated authority to the Superintendent to create specific
procedures to govern day-to-day District operations. The Board does not evaluate these
procedures to determine if they are effective and appropriate. Consequently, our audit
identified 12 findings included in this report and in our federal single audit and financial statement report.

Overarching Recommendation

In order to resolve the conditions noted in the findings, we recommend Board members
improve oversight of District operations. Board members should review the procedures created by the Superintendent and evaluate whether they are effective and appropriate for the District. It is the responsibility of the Board to hold executive managementaccountable for adherence to District policies.

In turn, executive management should hold staff accountable for following policies and
procedures. This includes establishing and maintaining an internal control system
designed to ensure compliance with laws, regulations and District policies and
procedures, and one that safeguards public assets. Executive management should
monitor for compliance and take action when issues arise.

I'm not sure how much more clear the Auditor's office can be. The district and Board are not doing their jobs in public oversight.

What are the issues?
  • not complying with state law on recording meeting minutes and making them available to the public. This one states that "district personnel stated they were not aware that retreats and workshops constituted a regular or special meeting and did not keep minutes." I had been wondering about the "minutes" reported during Board meetings that had absolutely no information about the meeting. Sorry, I'm not buying it. If, in 2010, staff, including legal staff, doesn't know this, we are in a sorry state.
  • not reporting all known or suspected losses of public funds or assets to the State Auditor. This one found district property (digital cameras, computers, etc.) were lost or misappropriated. The district both did not comply with the law to report losses to the Auditor AND was unable to locate these items or explain what happened to them.
  • using restricted capital project funds for unallowable expenditures. The District used more than $1.8M from Sept. 2007-August 2009 for a Small Business Development program to "help small businesses overcome barriers to growth with free training and one-on-one assistance and project management services". What!?! Isn't that the City's job? Why this much time and effort when their primary job is to educate? The program's activities are not consistent with purposes allowed by state law. The District stated some program expenditures were valid because they are related to District construction projects. However, the District did not have documentation of how the program and the projects were related, including which program costs were valid. This kind of falls in the category of "because we said so" except that the district can't say this to the Auditor. Cause of condition? District staff was not aware of state law on the use of capital project money or of the guidance provided in the Schools Accounting Manual. Not aware of state law on the use of capital project money? I think the BEX Oversight Committee might be interested on that one.
  • overpaying employees due to a lack of adequate internal controls during a payroll system conversion (we heard about this one earlier this year). The Auditor reported weaknesses in the payroll system in 2008 AND 2009 and yet here we are. The total overpayments equal $229k, with refunded payments of $41K and uncollected balance of $187k. The District has stated it does not believe it can determine the total number of
    employees overpaid or by how much.
  • the most damning? The School Board and District management have NOT implemented sufficient policies and controls to ensure the District complies with state laws, its own policies or addresses concerns identified in prior audits.
This one is quite serious. In this one are:

- staff mix which is OSPI funding calculated by combining the years of experience of the District's certificated staff with their academic credits.

The District continues to incorrectly report teacher education and experience, which may
affect funding it receives from the state. We followed up on errors in calculations for 13
career and technical education instructors we found during the 2008 audit.

For seven of the 13 instructors, the errors continued to affect placement on the LEAP
Schedule, which drive staff mix apportionment funding in 2009.

We determined the District did not make corrections we identified in the 2008 audit. We also identified changes to staff education and/or experience that could not be explained or supported by the District. This increases the risk that additional staff files may be
reported incorrectly resulting in the District receiving an inappropriate amount of funding.

- basic enrollment reporting - the District tracks students based on whole hours rather than actual class time and passing.

We judgmentally selected and reviewed 12th-grade enrollment reporting at Ballard,
Chief Sealth and Franklin high schools for September 2008. The District reports
students at the schools based on six periods daily. After reviewing student schedules,
we identified classes before and after school that were not included in student
calculations. We also noted non-instructional activities calculated as class time rather
than passing time, incorrectly increasing student numbers.

The District’s enrollment reporting system does not allow for enrollment reporting based
on actual minutes of instruction each week. The District rounds total minutes each
week, by student, to whole hours. This causes the District to over- and under-report
enrollment.

- open public meetings act. The Board had 12 Executive Sessions that were not properly documented in the minutes of the regular meeting.

In the 2008 audit, we noted audit issues involving failure to retain meeting minutes and
properly documenting the purpose of each executive session in minutes of the regular
meeting. As evidenced by this year’s audit, the District did not develop policies and
procedures to adequately address prior audit recommendations.

- Personal service contracts - the District paid personal service contracts with Special Ed money BEFORE the district staff approved of the contracts. They also did this with Native American federal grant money. They also did this with Head Start money. They also did this with Title One money.

This issue was brought to the District’s attention in last year’s audit. It has not been
resolved.

-Asset tracking. The District is not tracking the inventory properly. The Auditor "judgmentally selected for review" 120 items and couldn't find 28 including printers, laptops and desktop computers. No individual user ids or passwords are required and supervisors have no way to track the asset list.

In the 2008 audit, we recommended to the District’s Board and management that
internal controls over assets be strengthened. This issue remains unresolved and
assets continue to be unaccounted for.

- credit cards, fuel cards,rental revenue, records retention, all part of this report

- I-728 funds - I'm going to print this in its entirety.

Initiative 728 funds are used for education reform and improving student learning.

We also reviewed the District’s report on the use of I-728 funds for 2008-2009. We
noted the report did not include required information on children who need pre-
kindergarten support.

State law (RCW 28A.505.210) requires district boards on or before May 1 to have a
public hearing on proposed uses of these funds. The District did not retain minutes of
this hearing.

In our 2005 and 2008 audit, we determined the District did not comply with the
requirements for this funding. These issues have not been resolved.

Cause of Condition

The District Superintendent and executive management have not familiarized
themselves with state law and District policy regarding school operations. Additionally, the Board does not provide oversight to ensure laws and policies are followed.

The Board has adopted generic policies and delegated all of its authority to the
Superintendent to create specific procedures to govern day-to-day District operations.
However, the Board does not evaluate these procedures to determine if they are
effective or appropriate for the District.

Further, although we have communicated internal controls weaknesses in prior audits in the areas noted above, the District has not addressed them.

Effect of Condition

The District’s Board and Management have placed public resources at risk. We noted
several instances in which public assets were misappropriated or susceptible to
misappropriation due to lack of effective policies, management’s failure to enforce
existing policies and/or inadequately trained staff.

Charlie has pointed out numerous times that the Board doesn't enforce or follow its own policies. Audit after audit finds the same issues (to the point where, in the last audit, the Auditor's office said they believe the district just does enough and then waits to see if the Auditor finds anything wrong rather than figuring out the law themselves.

Prior audits have found executive management did not consistently communicate prior recommendations to District staff. We encourage management and Board members to do so in the future before the issues become more significant.

Okay so let's review. The Superintendent, the Board, District staff have been told over and over about many of these issues. Their reply to the Auditor is that they concur with nearly ALL the findings and are taking steps to blah, blah, blah. I'm sure they said blah, blah, blah in 2008 and 2009 and yet here we are. But the Auditor also speaks to the Board who has NO reply in this audit that I could find.

Yes, the Superintendent and the Board are doing a good job with accountability and oversight. What will the Times say to this? Given that the Auditor couldn't even find everything they were looking for, is this the tip of the iceberg?

37 comments:

Sahila said...

And the Board wants to extend her contract until 2013?

In any other business, Maria Goodloe Johnson would have been fired for gross incompetence...

The Board apparently had discussed the possibility of firing MGJ, or buying out her contract at a cost of $750K, but had decided that in these tight budgetary times, that move would be seen as 'fiscally irresponsible'.

Well, in any business I consult to, KEEPING such an incompetent employee who has cost the firm so much money ($48M and counting) would be considered fiscally irresponsible...

There comes a time when one has to cut one's losses, and now is the time for the Board to free itself from the losses that are embodied by MGJ - loss of trust, loss of confidence, loss of competence, financial losses, educational losses, loss of the best possible future for many SPS children and their families...

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is why Gary Ikeda was on the RIF list, but low and behold, the General Counsel position was recently posted.

Sahila said...

Scroll down to the second story on the page, and listen... not long, 6 minutes...

http://kbcs.fm/site/PageServer?pagename=specialreports

dan dempsey said...

Who's Listening?

Perhaps the King County Elections office needs to be listening to and reading a written request for a recall of some school directors in Seattle.

As one incidence of misfeasance is enough for the recall of a school director, then BIG BINGO from State Auditor Sonntag on that.

Washington State Auditor’s Office

RESULTS
Overarching Conclusion

Our audit found the School Board and executive management must improve oversight of District operations.

We noted several instances in which public assets were misappropriated or susceptible to misappropriation due to lack of effective policies, management’s failure to enforce existing policies and/or inadequately trained staff.

The Board and District management are not as familiar with state and federal law on school district operations and on the use of grant funds as the public would expect. As a result, the District exposes itself to greater risk of loss of federal funds and increases the risk for non-compliance with laws and regulations.

Further, the School Board delegated authority to the Superintendent to create specific procedures to govern day-to-day District operations. The Board does not evaluate these procedures to determine if they are effective and appropriate. Consequently, our audit identified 12 findings included in this report and in our federal single audit and financial statement report.

============
Apparently the only way to hold either the Superintendent or the school board accountable will be by gathering at least 32,000 valid signatures on a recall petition for each board member for which accountability is sought.

RCW 29A 56.110

As for me I see the same four directors supporting appeal of the Math Decision and voting to approve the unread NTN contract. Think about all those 4-3 decisions and how different things would be without those four.

Time for me to get the team busy.

Donations may be needed as I suspect a lawyer should be employed in the writing of the request to the elections office as the probability of recall success needs to be maximized.

Michael said...

And, of course, the Times ignores this whole issue. The P.I. had the story yesterday, but it looks like the Times is going to ignore the story until after tonight's vote on the MG-J contract.

dan dempsey said...

HERE is My TESTIMONY for tonight

seattle said...

The board will never get it.

Here was Harium's response on his blog to an inquiry about the superintendents no confidence votes:

"I am now back in Seattle. I have been away on a family holiday. My reaction to the votes at various schools is that I do not share lack of confidence in the superintendent. She is caring out the direction the board has asked her to. I do have conversations with her on the concerns that families bring. And they are weighed against what our goals are for the whole district."

Josh Hayes said...

Yeah, Michael's right: The Times does not see what it does not wish to see. Move along, nothing to report here, even though the emperor has no (WV) undies.

Sahila said...

Sent to the Board last night (sorry, no time to convert to live links):

Board members:

For your information, here are where things are at with the various no confidence in Dr Goodloe-Johnson votes:

1: So far, 12 school staffs (independently of the SEA) have voted no confidence in the Superintendent...


Those schools are: Ballard, Franklin, & West Seattle High Schools, Adams, Schmitz Park, Sanislo, Laurelhurst, Maple, Green Lake & John Rogers (signature #340 community declaration) Elemenatries, Orca K-8 and Ida B Wells.


2: The SEA has recommended to the Board that they not extend MGJ's contract; they are waiting till fall to decide on a union-endorsed vote of no confidence.


3: 78% of people voting on a straw poll conducted by the Queen Anne & Magnolia News Online think MGJ is doing a poor job... See here:

http://www.queenannenews.com/index.asp?PollID=4&btnView=1#PollSection


4: The majority of the 627 respondents to the CPPS survey were critical of MGJ... see here:

http://www.cppsofseattle.org/News/May10/supt-surveyMay2010.pdf

and see here for the comments on the survey from the SSS blog:
http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2010/05/cpps-survey-results-in.html


5: 379 people from a good cross section of SPS schools have signed the Community Declaration of No Confidence... see here for their names, zip codes, school affiliations and comments:

http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?S3B62010&1

6: And you could also go read the comments people posted to the recent (multiple) Seattle Times editorials praising MGJ's performance - hardly a kind word about either Lynn Varner's uninformed, error-filled formulaic
writing or about MGJ's management "skill"... and there was an article by Linda Shaw in the Times yesterday, that also did the "rah, rah, rah for MGJ" chant, and it too drew a lot of negative comment.

Do you really want to ignore this widespread community dissatisfaction, to shrug it off as nothing major worth worrying about, considering, acting on?

7: And now we have:
Schedule of Audit Findings and Responses, Seattle School District No. 1, King County June 21, 2010

The latest State Auditors Report of the Seattle Public School District finds the Superintendent and Board
(yet again - three years running now) woefully lacking in managing the finances, assets and resources of the District responsibly... in many cases acting on the wrong side of the law...

see here:
http://www.sao.wa.gov/findings/1003871.pdf
(https://www.sao.wa.gov/EN/News/Subscriptions/Pages/RecentAuditReportSubscriptions.aspx?CID=70)

In any other business, Maria Goodloe Johnson would have been fired for gross incompetence...

According to a Board member I spoke with a month or so ago, the Board had discussed the possibility of firing MGJ, or buying out her contract at a cost of $750K, but had decided that in these tight budgetary times, that move would be seen as 'fiscally irresponsible'.

Well, in any business with which I consult, KEEPING such an incompetent employee (who, by the way, is paid more than the governor of this state) who has cost the firm so much money ($48M and counting) would be considered fiscally irresponsible...

There comes a time when one has to cut one's losses, and now is the time for you, the Board to listen to your constituents and free yourselves and us from the losses that are embodied by MGJ - loss of trust, loss of confidence, loss of competence, financial losses, educational losses, loss of the best possible future for many SPS children and their families...

Please fire her - we can and must do better for our children...

SP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

OH MY GOD!! Just reading that comment by the Board member demonstrates the problem.. that man is illiterate himself.

The district is in chaos but then have you been where its most evident - the schools. They are a disaster, especially those in the South end. Spectrum at Aki? Please that school is beyond dysfunctional. South Shore a third Principal in as many years and it shows. Rainier Beach has two Principals for under 500 kids. Hawthorne, Brighton, Mercer are all nightmares.

Wow just wow that you can have that kind of fiscal irresponsibility and still retain your job? Well unless you are a Banker or on Wall Street?

Seriously, the old expression "the fish stinks from the head" Well this fish stinks beyond that. How shameful.

Maureen said...

Beth (or Mel or Charlie), can we get the 'anonymous' posting option removed again? I find it so confusing when I can't follow who is saying what on a thread. Thanks!

SP said...

from Cause of Condition, in the audit:

"The Board has adopted generic policies and delegated all of its authority to the Superintendent to create specific procedures to govern day-to-day District operations.
However, the Board does not evaluate these procedures to determine if they are
effective or appropriate for the District."

This is true & the Board is directly responsible for this watering down trend in our policies and hiding the procedures from the public's view. The vast majority of WA School Boards have both their policies and procedures, side by side on their School Board websites, for access to both of these valuable documents. SPS Board has spent the last couple of years "cleaning up" our policies and entirely removing the procedure out of the policy- which would be fine, IF the procedures, as determined and approved by the Board (and not by the district)were still listed in a linked "procedure" document for the public to read.

But instead, SPS now includes a reference to the procedure in the new Board policies such as this, "The Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee(s) shall maintain the K-12 Counseling Services Manual as the administrative procedures that further implement this policy." The Board is giving the district a free hand in determining the procedures for the Board's policies- this is not correct and does not allow for a proper "checks & balance" system of accountability. No other school district allows this.

Note- there is no link or indication as to where this procedural manual is located. Why is this? Even the current Graduation Requirements bulletin contains this reference, with no link. A search on the SPS website for the procedural manual finally gives us a hint as to where it is hidden- in an obscure SPS department called, "Prevention & Intervention" which is listed as offering services in drug & alcohol abuse, violence prevention, truency, anti-harrassment, bullying, etc. How logical- Exactly where families would look for graduation procedures or procedures on how to apply for high school credits for middle school math classes!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you are new.

We do NOT allow anonymous comments, too confusing. Pick a name, any name but choose one.

Any anonymous comment will be deleted.

TechyMom said...

Does the state have any power to act on this audit?

dan dempsey said...

Spruce reported Harium said:

"My reaction to the votes at various schools is that I do not share lack of confidence in the superintendent. She is caring out the direction the board has asked her to. I do have conversations with her on the concerns that families bring. And they are weighed against what our goals are for the whole district."

Note to Harium:

The State Auditor's office appears to have little confidence in you or the Superintendent. Perhaps you need to reassess the direction the Superintendent is following or at least share it with the public.

I find most of the public I know lines up more closely with the auditor than Harium.
=========
Our audit found the School Board and executive management must improve oversight of District operations. ......

Further, the School Board delegated authority to the Superintendent to create specific procedures to govern day-to-day District operations. The Board does not evaluate these procedures to determine if they are effective and appropriate.
===================

So what job is Harium doing?

Sahila said...

Directors:

Imagine - each of the 500+ people (school staffs included and other poll voters) who have signed resolutions and voted their lack of confidence in Maria Goodloe Johnson is standing in front of you at the Board meeting tonight, giving testimony.

At three minutes of testimony each, that means you'll be sitting here for at least 1,500 minutes, or 25 hours, listening to your constituents express their dissatisfaction with the Superintendent, her performance and the effects of that performance on our children and our schools.

And that's exactly what each of the signees to the attached Declaration have done. http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?S3B62010

They've taken at least 3 minutes of their time to make their wishes known to you - you who have been elected by us (and not hired by the Broad/Gates Foundations et al), to do what we think is best for our children.

You have a clear duty here - at the very least do not extend the Superintendent's contract. Better yet, respond in the affirmative to your constituents' calls to fire her, with cause. With the latest State Audit findings, you have more than enough reason.

Respectfully,

Sahila ChangeBringer

Meg said...

Just FYI, the only district with more adverse findings was Edmonds, with 6, and they resolved... 6.

And not one of the other accountability reports that I have read had comments like this: "The district is not complying with the law. It is not providing citizens accountability and transparency over public resources.”

I think my favorite part of the report though, was when the auditor made the observation that for the Superintendent's MOU for her SPS credit card, there were handwritten provisions for "uses not authorized in the procurement card manual." Anyone curious what those uses are? I sure am - and also: oopsie. Not great PR to give yourself exceptions on the company card. And not to mention that to the board.

gavroche said...

Well, Supt. Goodloe-Johnson did say in a (3/28/08) Seattle's Child Magazine fluff piece that she loves to shop...!

Besides reading, Goodloe-Johnson’s other personal interest is …

“Shopping. I love to shop,” she says. (Me, too!)

And she has good taste, judging from her bright orange, well-accessorized outfit. Not everyone can wear orange. It’s a bold color. Someone with a daring, confident personality can pull it off. She does.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I wrote to Michael DeBell to ask for Board comment for the blog. (Note: I asked as a writer for the blog, not as a citizen. I'm standing by my pledge not to interact with the Board.) He says:

"Today is already a very busy day but Sherry and I are working on a response to the Audit. We will make initial comments tonight and follow up with a work plan."

So this year there will be a work plan? So what happened in 2005? 2008? 2009 when these issues were raised (as the Auditor notes)? What is the real and accountable follow-thru on these issues? I won't hold my breath.

Also, Techy Mom, I've got a call in to ask about what can be done to follow-up on this report.

Michael said...

Meg said, "I think my favorite part of the report though, was when the auditor made the observation that for the Superintendent's MOU for her SPS credit card, there were handwritten provisions for "uses not authorized in the procurement card manual." Anyone curious what those uses are? I sure am - and also: oopsie. Not great PR to give yourself exceptions on the company card. And not to mention that to the board."

Call the auditor's office and ask them to tell you the information or show you the document (if they have it). That would be interesting.

Michael said...

Melissa,

"Also, Techy Mom, I've got a call in to ask about what can be done to follow-up on this report."

The auditors can only follow up on these issues during the next audit based on an interview of Sonntag I heard today on the radio. They are "a reporting agency, not an enforcement agency."

Michael said...

"Just FYI, the only district with more adverse findings was Edmonds, with 6, and they resolved... 6."

this latest report is just their "accountability" report. Including the other report the auditors issued in May, the district got a toatl of 12 findings during this audit cycle.

Wow. Unbelievable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Michael, I know the Auditor can't do anything. BUT there is obviously someone who can. It can hurt to ask what channels there are.

Teachermom said...

This makes me think of a Robin Williams joke about British police not having guns.

"Stop, or I'll say stop again!"

Melissa Westbrook said...

Teachermom, that is one of my favorite jokes (I used to say it to my guys all the time). Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize that the board was this remiss in their duties. And didn't they give themselves a "B" or something like that on their own report card?

These guys are a joke.

I have given them a lot of leeway. They work full time and have no staff but...if they think that they can do the job then they need to find a way to do it.

If they can't, then they need to be tossed out on their arrears.

If I got a review like this at my job I would be fired.

They need to be fired.

You didn't fire the supe, then you get fired.

It's as simple as that.

They can kiss their political ambitions good-by.

Jan said...

Dora: I think we need to differentiate between board members. At this point, I am a Smith-Blum fan. And while Betty Patu is sometimes not as forceful as I would like, or seems disengaged, she sure came through last night.
The OTHER five are the ones who need to go. It is clear at this point that there is nothing -- NOTHING -- that MGJ could do that would lead them to disapprove of her (except maybe abandon her (their) top-down, centralized-control, high stakes testing tied to teacher pay "reform" agenda. I was going to say "short of just not showing up" -- but then I realized, she has done that -- shown up late, or sent others to meetings that she should have attended, ignored the public by blatantly blackberrying.

Fiscal mismanagement certainly doesn't seem to be an issue -- as shown by the incredibly damning state audit, the Native American funding fiasco, the continued bloat of the Stanford Center while students and schools go begging, the school closing "money savings" fiasco, and the continued and repetitive misspending of funds on bad programs, underenrolled schools, etc.

Destruction of good programs doesn't seem to be an issue, as NOVA gets moved to an inadequate site, elementary APP gets split amid a cascade of broken promises (tested curricula, same size programs) and damage to the TM existing program through loss of Title 1 funds and the kinds of program incompatibility and friction that we thought we would avoid by never cohousing APP elementary with a neighborhood program again (that Stanford -- what did HE know, right MGJ?

While I would like to give DeBell something of a pass for at least SAYING "critical stuff" before caving and voting for extension -- I can't. As Charlie has pointed out, he dismal and futile habit this district has of giving out the "treats" (contract extension, budget approval, whatever --) based solely on promises that virtually NEVER seem to be met, has to end. The right way for DeBell to have proceeded would have been to vote -- NO on contract extension, on the understanding that if the criticisms raised were satisfactority met -- the board could always meet successful ACTION (rather that success in making vague promises of future action) with a contract extension later.
Note -- I am not saying they should have fired her. I think that for the board (at least 4 of them - again, Betty and Kay get passes from me) to have approved every single frickin thing that she has done to date -- they were in no position to suddenly say, oops, leave now. They have mismanaged themselves into a bad place, but when you are in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging. They COULD have done that last night -- but at least four of them did NOT (DeBell left himself room to change course -- the other 4 need no such room, as NOTHING she will do (or not do) will make any difference to their blind support of her. It is shameful.

dan dempsey said...

Jan,

I disagree. When the State Auditor produces a report like this that involves the Superintendent it is perfectly appropriate to fire her.

Tell me the jobs where a person can violate state laws on a regular basis, make very costly mistakes and NOT get fired because it is NOT appropriate to fire the person.

OK list away .... because I can not think of any.

=======

Our job is now to "fire" five school board members. Not because they extended MGJ's contract an additional third year (which was flat out insane) but because of the level of pathetic performance that the five directors exhibit. READ THE AUDITOR'S REPORT. The auditor has no jurisdiction to hold these people accountable that is our job.

We best get with it.
RECALL is our job.

Charlie Mas said...

One of the most significant elements of this audit - for me - is a bit difficult to detect. It's sometimes hard to tell when something is missing.

The big news can be found between a finding by the Auditor and the response by the District.

The Auditor finds that the Board failed to enforce policies. The District acknowledges the finding and does not dispute it.

That is HUGE!

Up until this moment the District, and the Board in particular, has claimed that the Board had no duty to enforce policy. When asked who enforced Policy, the Board claimed that it was the superintendent's job - not theirs. Now, here, in an official document filed with the State, the Board and the Distrixt acknowledge that enforcing Policy is the Board's duty.

That is HUGE!

Now we can write to the Board about Policy violations and remind them of their duty to enforce Policy and the auditor finding that they failed in that duty.

Sahila said...

But how to enforce this requirement of the Board... and what kind of consequences are there for them for not enforcing policies...

There must be something we can DO other than hand wringing, finger pointing/waggling and chanting the mantra you posted - which I am going to do, by the way...

dan dempsey said...

Sahila,

I repeat....
from the AG's office
two options either (1) get new board members or (2) file a lawsuit.

So let us eventually get new board members and get rid of 5 now.

Lawsuits over lack of policy enforcement at $15,000 per policy. NO.

Recall five.

Jan said...

Charlie: very interesting point on policy. But now my question is -- given that several (not all) of our board members are invertibrates and lack any spines -- how do we go about this in a way that doesn't just invite them to dismantle all of the policies (I know -- since they violate them/fail to enforce them at will, maybe it is irrelevant) so they don't have to be bothered with the "messiness" of being called to account for failing to (1) evaluate them for effectiveness and (2) enforcing them? My sense is that there are actually some GOOD (unenforced and ignored) policies out there. I would hate to see the five board members who answer only to MGJ repeal all of the remaining good policies so they can continue (unhindered by policy) to just do whatever MGJ tells them they should want.

My questions: when are the terms of the 2007 directors up? And how long does the average recall process take?

Jan said...

Charlie (or anyone else with sufficient finance/audit experience to ride herd on MGJ and her board:
The School District press release says this:

Seattle Public Schools has already addressed many of the findings noted in the 2008-09 Accountability
Audit, and is establishing a multi-disciplinary audit response project team to ensure that corrective
action is taken for all outstanding issues identified by the auditors.

So -- who gets to be on the "multi-disciplinary audit response project team?" Only district staff employees? If so, why would that be? Why not outside expertise? Why not Charlie? Or Meg? Or (I don't mean to leave anyone out here -- I just don't know who from the outside (i)cares, (ii) has the right skill set to do this, and (iii) won't roll over when someone from the district invites them to mistake a promise for a "solved problem.")

Charlie Mas said...

Jan asks some excellent questions.

First, there is no risk that the Board will simply repeal policies en masse to evade the obligation to enforce them. Many of the policies are required by law. More than that, the Board thinks they are doing a good job. So they don't see any need for radical change in their practices.

The terms of office for Directors Maier, Sundquist, Carr, and Martin-Morris will expire in December of 2011. They will stand for election next year. Candidates for those offices should announce in April or so.

I have no experience with recalls. I presume that as soon as the petitions are collected and verified the recall goes on the next ballot. Right now I think the next ballot will be in November. The school levy will be on that ballot as well.

I don't know who will be on the "multi-disciplinary audit response project team" but you can be sure that it will be strictly staff. There won't be any seats at the table for community members.

Sahila said...

Charlie... Harium notes on his blog that the board is busy rewriting policy now... that worries me, that they are doing that without community/external input...

Charlie Mas said...

I have written to the board and the superintendent to ask about the multi-disciplinary audit response team. I'll let you all know what I learn.