State auditors find fault with local school district

The Sunnyside School District has just received yet another audit result featuring three findings, the most serious of which has to do with paying a teacher that wasn't considered highly qualified by standards of grant funding.

According to state auditors, in order to apply Title 1 funding to an education position, that teacher must be considered "highly qualified."

According to auditors, that means the teacher must have a Bachelor's degree in the subject he or she is teaching, hold full state certification and can demonstrate subject matter knowledge and teaching skill in core academic subject matter he or she is designed to teach.

In this case, the teacher at the beginning of the school year was not considered qualified by the grant standards.

According to the district's community relations coordinator, Curtis Campbell, the teacher was qualified to teach, but emphasized the teacher was not qualified to teach according to grant standards in that subject matter.

According to Sunnyside School District Business Manager Angela Watts, this particular teacher was put on a plan and had a year to meet those standards. Ultimately, the teacher did not by the end of the school year and is no longer with the district.

But the way Title 1 funding works is that the school district bills on a monthly basis. Hence, the school district billed for, and was given, Title 1 funding for the teacher.

According to Watts, at the end of the year, accounting bookwork was amended and the teacher's salary and benefits were then paid for out of the general education fund. The Title 1 funds were then re-applied elsewhere, where requirements were meant.

"We had other expenditures that took its place," explained Watts. "We spent the whole grant on allowable expenditures."

The amount the teacher was paid for the year is $46,671.

Because the Sunnyside School District re-applied costs associated with the non-qualified position at the end of the year, Watts said she believes there's a good chance the district will win an appeal.

Auditors also took issue with the district's allocation of Title 1 funding to each school in the district.

In this particular finding, the school district, in error, omitted one of the schools in the district on the actual funding application.

Watts said the school received the adequate funding, but was omitted on the application. Watts said that when auditors looked in to the matter, they were able to find the school received adequate funding through Sunnyside School District records.

Also at fault is a simple bidding process for professional services-according to the audit, there were two instances in which the district failed to demonstrate it attempted to find a plethora of qualified individuals, a pool, so to speak, to choose from for professional development.

According to auditors, the district failed to show quotes were obtained prior to contracting for two professional service agreements in the amount of more than $96,000.

Auditors say, "The district cannot ensure it obtained the best services for the most competitive price."

Watts said that in this case, the district knew of only one person that provided professional training in this area. The school district contracted with the University of Washington for the services. "We were supposed to contact other universities to see if they had similar programs, which we did," Watts said. "But they (auditors) weren't satisfied with that documentation."

Watts said one challenging thing about recent audits is the time period of which they are auditing. In this case, the Sunnyside School District was audited at the end of the 2008-09 school year for the previous year. This is challenging because the district could be dinged, so to speak, in an audit of the 2008-09 school year because the district didn't get guidance from auditors in a timely manner.

She said auditors are now working with the school district to be more timely.


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