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State officials report Grandview schools must pay back $323,000

GRANDVIEW - A finding in the Grandview School District's 2009-11 state audits could cost the district more than $323,000.

The Washington State Auditors Office released the latest audit report on Oct. 1, and in it State Auditor Brian Sonntag noted, "The district lacked adequate controls over its enrollment reporting for its alternative learning experience program at Compass High School."

Auditors said the cause of the finding was due to district personnel not being aware of the requirements for claiming funding for alternative-learning students.

"We disagree with that," said Grandview School District Superintendent Kevin Chase.

Auditors say in 2010 Grandview reported more than 553 monthly full-time students in the alternative program enrolled in the Contract Learning Center at Compass High School. Auditors noted that upon reviewing paperwork, the district made a more than 53 percent error in reporting.

In 2011, auditors said they found that the district reported 557 monthly full time students in the program, and of those, a nearly 53 percent error rate was committed in factors that support the funding.

Auditors say, due to the errors in reporting, the Grandview School District was overpaid by more than $323,000 over the two years under review.

Recommendations to fix the problem include written student learning plans with a beginning and end date that also contain all of the required state mandated items, progress reviews completed monthly and forms to be signed and dated by the school prior to counting the students for enrollment.

Chase says the issues the state auditors had were with how learning plans and progress reviews were worded.

"The audit had request verbiage that included "satisfactory progress" for each student, monthly. In fact, the teacher meets face to face with each student weekly," local school officials answered back in the district's response to the state auditors office.

The response also noted that district officials didn't see sense in minor adjustments having cause or merit to the recovery of more than $300,000.

"Recovering that much funding from a program that is already facing other cuts is just not educationally sound, nor, we believe, merited," district officials noted.

Grandview School District officials also noted to state auditors that the district has changed the weekly narrative progress reviews to include more specificity on a monthly basis to determine satisfactory progress.

Chase says the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is going to look into the matter.

"If it's determined that the finding is upheld, we will definitely appeal," he added.

Chase also noted that when an auditor visited the schools, she told Chase and district officials that everything was in good order. He says he thinks someone at the state level didn't approve of how the district's reporting of students' progress was worded.

"It wasn't specifically worded in the same form they apparently expected," Chase added.

Chase and Grandview District officials say they are confident the issues will work themselves out.

"I think it's all going to work out in the end," he said.

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