Audit: Susquehanna Township School District operating at “D” level

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says “extreme dysfunction” is impacting student education in the Susquehanna Township School District.

The Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General released the audit of the district Thursday morning. The review was conducted from April 29, 2009 through May 2, 2013 and from October 15, 2013 through May 28, 2014, and found significant noncompliance with relevant requirements.

The review listed four main findings, the first being a lack of governance. It says that there was a lack of cooperation among the district’s school board members and between the school board and the administration.

The audit said the board and the former Superintendent failed to lead as a united team in their respective roles and failed to have strong collaboration and mutual trust. Even stating, “As part of cooperative team, she (the former Superintendent) would have sought a more positive and informal mechanism for addressing her issues, rather than seeking legal protection in her contract.”

The former Superintendent’s contract had claims that mandated board members to, “treat the Superintendent in a civil, professional and courteous manner at all times.” The contract also had a provision that said, “Board Members shall not attempt to interfere with or usurp the administrative role of the Superintendent.”

The audit states that provisions like these did not appear in the five other superintendent contracts reviewed during the audit.

According to the audit, the ineffective governance resulted in a high turnover in key administrative positions and a substantial increase in the District’s legal costs, which had reached more than $200,000 as of May 2014.

The costs were nearly four times the budgeted figure in 2014. The 2014 total was $239,389 as of May 20, 2014. The total in 2011 was $39,202 by June 30.

The second finding was that within the time period, three district employees did not have proper certifications. Two teachers had lapsed certificates and the third had a certificate but it wasn’t valid for the school district.

The third finding says that contracts for administrative, professional personnel and support personnel may have inaccurately reported the wages eligible for retirement for the ’09-’10, ’10-’11, ’11-’12 and ’12-’13 school years.

Finally, the audit claims that the district failed to properly contract for services and failed to maintain proper oversight for those contracted. For example, the audit says the board approved $1.7 million over four years to the American Reading Company for a reading initiative, this was approved without a formal contract.

The district also decided not to hire a replacement for the position of Director of Special Education/Pupil Services, instead choosing to hire a consultant. This was a part-time position that was paid at a rate of $500 per day, without a contract.

DePasquale says the findings have resulted in the Susquehanna Township School District operating a “D” level. Auditors have offered 38 recommendations to the district.

To see the full copy of the audit click, here.

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