Problems exposed in state audit of Hickman Mills School District - KCTV5

UPDATE

Problems exposed in state audit of Hickman Mills School District

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Missouri's State Auditor Tom Schweich released an audit that highlighted 15 areas the Hickman Mill's C-1 School District needs to address.

The district received a "fair" grade, which means basically a two out of four in their scoring system.

Auditors criticized several out-of-state trips made by board members and/or employees who attended conferences in 11 states and Washington, DC during the 2012 school year.

The district spent $26,000 for all seven members of the board, two former administrators and a former board secretary to attend the three-day, National School Board Association Conference last April.

Former board president Breman Anderson Jr. only attended one session of training, which the audit says lasted 56 minutes.

Board member Bonnaye Mims was also highlighted in the report for only attending two sessions on the final conference day for 160 minutes of training at the Boston conference.

The audit revealed that $1,500 of the expenses included three rental cars. The audit staff questioned as to why that was necessary because the conference was held at the same hotel where the Hickman Mills representatives were staying.

KCTV5 News investigative reporter Eric Chaloux discovered that training manuals and handouts for that convention were available for free online.

In order to complete the audit, Schweich's team had to get subpoenas to get information from the district. Schweich's report says Hickman Mills did not always comply with the Sunshine Law and held numerous improper closed meetings.

State auditors recommended that Hickman Mills re-evaluate the amount of board travel and to ensure board members attending future district paid training session provide evidence of participation.

Hickman Mills' district officials accepted the state auditor's findings when it came to board travel.

In their official response to it they wrote, "The district believes that attendance at the NSBA conference is important to board member education and to understand and develop strategies necessary to effectively educate children."

Schweich's team revealed in the report that the board, in their eyes, did not follow their policies or state law when selecting a new superintendent, in part by not soliciting bids for the project.

The audit staff questioned why the search firm hired to look for a new superintendent was allowed to participate in negotiating the new superintendent's contract when their fee was contingent on the starting salary.

As a result of the auditor's findings, the district says they will include a policy that prohibits contingency contracts with vendors.

The audit reviewed the district's finances and concluded that the financial condition has improved but is still below minimum recommended levels.

The report claims the district made several disbursements that did not have a "clear school district or educational purpose."

One item noted in this category in the report had to do with the sponsorship of the 2011 Kansas City Black Expo at the cost of $7,500, of which $5,000 was federal Title I funds.

"The district may have improperly used federal Title 1 funds, which are restricted for improving education of disadvantaged children," wrote auditors about the event sponsorship.

The school board provided the following written response:

"The current superintendent and current board president will monitor requests for payment to outside groups to ensure an educational component exists and that the expenditure is reasonable for the educational benefit received."

Hickman Mill's is currently provisionally accredited by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The report won't affect their accreditation status, but could be used as a resource for those who will make that decision.

Click here to read the entire audit and see the district's responses to the report.

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