Seattle Schools This Week
Again, as the district continues with high school graduation ceremonies this week, congratulations to all the seniors making that walk and their proud parents.Tuesday, June 21st
Board Audit&Finance committee meeting, 4:30-4:45 pm JSCEE. Agenda
It's hard to discern what items in the agenda are of particular interest, given the neutral listings. Unfortunately, reading the internal audit documents there are two items of note. (See review of the issues after the listing of weekly meetings/events.)
Wednesday, June 22nd
Community Meeting with Director Geary from 4-6 pm at the Northeast Library.
Thursday, June 23rd
Meeting on building modifications for Lincoln High at that site from 6:30-8:00 pm. Again, this is about the physical building and not what offerings will be at the school nor boundaries. Director Burke has said he will be attending.
Public hearing on the 2016-2017 budget, 4:30-6:15 pm, JSCEE.
Now usually, it is me, Chris Jackins (another watchdog), maybe Sped PTA president, Cecilia McCormick and a couple of other people. I sure wish people would come this time because I think the staff and the Board need to hear what parents want to see happen with this budget AND the extra $11M they somehow found.
Those wishing to speak about the FY 2016-2017 Recommended Budgets may sign up at the public hearing to present oral testimony. Testimony will be taken on a first-come, first serve basis according to the sign-up sheet at the public hearing. Speakers will be given a maximum of three (3) minutes to speak.Now you can see that's 15 whole minutes of testimony. If more people show up, I'm sure they will extend it. Immediately after the public hearing is a Work Session on Transportation.
But what should have come first to get the most input - a public hearing on the budgets or a work session? The order should be reversed to allow the most number of public comments. You aren't going to get them at 4:30 rather than if the hearing started at 6:00 pm.
Friday, June 24th
Last day of the school year.
One is the Genesee Hill project which is now - the the district's own hand - running over budget.
The current project budget is $41 million. Construction began in September 2014 and substantial completion is expected in June 2016.As well, personal services contracts on this project were not all executed well with one attorney contracted for $450 an hour but receiving $475 per hour.
An informal value engineering study performed on the schematic design of Genesee Hill Elementary School revealed the project was over budget. The original design was two separate two-story buildings, one on the upper level of the site and one on the lower level, with bridges connecting the two buildings. The district did not accept enough of the proposed cost reductions from the study to bring the bridge scheme within budget.
Rather risk delaying the completion of construction documents, the district elected to accelerate the redesign efforts and maintain the schedule for bidding the project. Acceleration cost the district approximately $414,000.
In August 2013, the district modified the architect’s contract, increasing the MACC by $1.8 million and raising the architect’s fees by $114,558. The reason for increasing the MACC was that escalation had not been included in the MACC in the original contract, which was executed in February 2013.
Also of note to all parents:
In general, the role and responsibilities of SDAT appear to be well defined by the district. However, we recommend the district emphasize to stakeholders that project budgets are not negotiable. Although SDAT plays an important role in selecting a conceptual design option, the district is the custodian of BEX funds and has sole authority to make final design and budgetary decisions.
We advised Accounting that the district had paid the wrong hourly rate and, more importantly, that expired contracts generally should not be modified. We emphasized that adequate monitoring by staff is necessary to prevent these problems. Despite our concerns, the initiating department issued two additional modifications, one to increase the value of the contract to pay invoices, another to retroactively revise the hourly rate to $475. While it is not unusual to pay consultants after contract expiration for work performed during the contract term, reviving an expired contract can create unnecessary risks for the district.In addition, Internal Audit points out other issue for not only personal services contracts but procurement, RFP and other accounting issues. I'm not understanding how this could be happening since the Silas Potter incident cast a bright light on many of those issues. There does not appear to be anything illegal in nature but that we keep seeing these kinds of lapses is troubling especially when we are paying such high salaries for those at the top.
Sadly, there is also an audit for Lowell Elementary. There appears to be some mishandling of money and some missing field trip dollars. This falls under the responsibilities of the principal. Info on this audit starts on page 32.
There are a number of issues including:
During a surprise cash count on January 25, 2016, we identified $12,986.90 in the school’s safe that had not been deposited with the District’s bank account. The funds identified in the safe dated back to the 2012/2013 school year, and consisted primarily of student field-trip payments. Even though the school routinely collects funds from students to cover the cost of fieldtrips, the school had not deposited any of the fieldtrip funds with the bank since the 2011/2012 school year. The District’s Accounting Department retrieved the funds discovered during the cash count and deposited them in the District’s bank account.
We were unable to identify any deposits associated with the December 2014 IslandWood Camp, nor were able to locate any funds associated with the 2014 IslandWood Camp during our surprise cash counts at the school. Payments from student families were collected by the two teachers that taught fifth grade students during the 2014/2015 school year. The teachers would then give the funds to the school’s Administrative Secretary in the main office. The Administrative Secretary confirmed that the teachers turned the IslandWood Camp fees into the main office, and that the Administrative Secretary recalls receiving the funds from the teachers. Neither of the fifth grade teachers from the 2014/2015 school year are still employed by Seattle Public Schools, nor is the 2014/2015 school principal.What is also sad is that the Internal Audit reveals that Lowell was not following district policy on field trips. What is it going to take for schools to take these policies seriously?
Since the 2012/2013 school year, the Administrative Secretary has been solely responsible for all funds received by the main office. The Administrative Secretary is also the only person who knew the combination to the school’s safe. We interviewed several school staff members, including the Administrative Secretary, who all confirmed that the Administrative Secretary was the only one to handle funds once they were turned into the main office. Once informed of these issues, District management placed the Administrative Secretary on administrative leave while the Office of Internal Audit investigated the missing funds.