Thursday, August 22, 2013

Audit&Finance Committee Meeting Today

The agenda was finally available when I checked this morning.  Given its brevity, I wonder why it took so long.

An interesting thing about these Board committee meetings is how the agendas are written.  I find that C&I and Ex Ctm. have much more information generally than Ops and especially A&F.

One intriguing topic for today:

Resolution 2013/14-2 to Authorize the Direction of Selected Lease and Rental Earnings to the General Fund 

Now I would guess in the past that those earnings went to capital needs (and rightly so) but are district needs the money.  It's for things like raises for upper staff, like paying $150k to be part of a "Human Capital: project, like having not one but two teaching training groups within SPS (TFA and Seattle Teacher Residency), etc.

And, of course, we are allowing buildings to be sub-let and then taken over by groups so it is very difficult to figure out what is happening with any lease/rental earnings.

Our district has a scattershot focus, not a laser focus and if you wonder how anyone knows what is really going on, the answer is, they don't.

Also on the agenda, the broadly-stated "Policies and Procedures" and "Board Priorities".

I can't attend this one so I hope someone else can.


mirmac1 said...

I'll be there, as well as at the Oversight Work Session on ELL.

Charlie Mas said...

I think the references to "Policies and Procedures" and "Board Priorities" are just section headers on the agenda. Since those sections are empty, it appears that the Committee has none of those to discuss.

mirmac1 said...

Wow, the A&F was a breath of fresh air. The SPS Internal Auditor Andrew Medina is a peach. He presented a draft list of many areas calling for priority, and secondary audits. Up at the top were two that suggests that, as a board director told me, "it's not business as usual anymore".

Special Education was singled out as an area getting audited; this after two SAO and the OSPI WISM team reports calling out significant issues of noncompliance, placing $11M of IDEA funding at risk. Looks like that finally caught someone's attention. The Internal Auditor will look to ensure that the district is in compliance with the final corrective action plan (yet to be submitted and accepted). One director noted "how did special education slip off the rails so bad? There does not exist a culture of compliance!" Well, parents have been saying this forever but... It obviously takes the top boss, the superintendent, to tell everyone else get off your butts and fix this. This has been the case for ELL, which received priority attention from day one of Mr Banda's tenure. Their presentation at the Oversight Session was impressive and made the dysfunction in SpEd even more evident. I expect that the new Exec Dir of SpEd will be given as much support as ELL.

Another area of audit is, are you sitting down, "Control Environment/Tone at the Top/Culture of Fear". What's that you ask? Good question. This is a direct result of the whole Potter piehole. Are staff and parents free to report malfeasance and ethical lapses without fear of retribution? Now, I thought the internal audits mainly focused on counting the beans, but I understand now that along with fiscal control, they are to look at policy compliance. And the district now has a policy of doing things legally and ethically (have you told Ron English that?) Director DeBell pointed out that the current situation is partly due to lack of enforcement for site councils/building leadership teams, that "autocratic" principals create toxic environments that discourage parents and staff from participating in school matters. Amazing, because I distinctly remember DeBell going on about ensuring strong principals having more control and "constituent matters" being referred to the principal. Hmmm.

Finally, another area for audit is Testing Integrity. Mr Medina wants to be ahead of the curve, mindful of the testing scandals and snafus around the country. Good thinking.

Unknown said...


Thanks for the update.

-West Seattle parent

Anonymous said...

"Director DeBell pointed out that the current situation is partly due to lack of enforcement for site councils/building leadership teams"

So, who is responsible for oversight and enforcement of site councils and BLTs? The buck stops where exactly?


Anonymous said...

Director DeBell is the one who has instigated the whole sped blow-off attitude with his continuous quips as to the discretionary nature of special education. If he sets the tone, special education is "discretionary", then the funding follows that directive. Eg. It's ok not to comply with special education directives.

When DeBell says that levy funds should not be used for special education students, he opens the door for the exact type of abuse that has happened while he has been driving on the board. Why should levy funds go for general education, but not special education? The same cost forces (mostly staff salary) that cause general education students to "bust the budget" and require levy extra funding also exist for special education. Is he implying that special education teachers should be paid less than "general education teachers" so as to fit in below levy limits? That really is the implication of his continuous banter. Glad he's out. He's been there too long.

-Sped Parent

mirmac1 said...


Amazingly, everyone was looking around the table for an answer to that question. I wanted to shout "the Exec Directors of Schools?!?!!" Wouldn't it seem that the boss of principals would ensure that they have a functioning site council in place, and check their soundness on a random basis - keep people on their toes? Would principals' evals be hinged on that?

But the Exec Dir of schools never came up.

Charlie Mas said...

Wow. Just wow.

The Board is so completely without any sense of compliance that they misunderstand their role in it.

They still refuse to accept their duty to enforce policy.

mirmac1 said...

Yeah, I know Charlie. Thank goodness they at least recognized their duty to assign someone like Andrew who recognizes his duty.