TPS committee hears preview of district performance auditWritten by John P. McCartney | | email@example.com
In a 25-minute presentation to the Toledo Public School (TPS) Board of Education Finance Committee on March 13, Dr. Linda Recio, president of Evergreen Solutions, presented 31 preliminary findings of what she said would be a 500-plus page performance audit report Evergreen will present to the full board of trustees no later than April 3.
During her presentation, Recio outlined the preliminary findings:
- “We applaud the Policy Committee for a very comprehensive and up-to-date policy manual. It’s one of the best we’ve seen, and it’s available online,” she said. “However, the board has no administrative procedure manual. You’ve got numerous memos — memos from the present superintendent, memos from previous superintendents and memos from the previous treasurer — but no one takes those memos and puts them in some kind of form to relate to board policy.
“The superintendent and his cabinet are accountable for the implementation of board policy, but what are the procedures? Where are those procedures? Everybody ends up searching all over for them
- “The teachers’ relationships with the cabinet and the leaders of the district are in need of improvement.” “
- Some schools are overstaffed in terms of administrators and clerical. They’re not in line with your own contracts. That’s not to say that some of the more atypical, challenged schools may need more special education teachers at that school. There may be very good reasons you have more clerical or assistant principals at a specific school. That’s the board’s prerogative.”
- “Legal services are exceptionally high.”
- “The superintendent has an excellent relationship within the business community.”
- The district has no centralized approach to grant management. There is no grant manager, and that works against the Transformation Plan.”
- “Distance learning is a really good effort, but it is not being fully implemented.”
- “You have several exemplary curriculum, instructional and vocational programs, but in many schools, they’re the best kept secrets. You’re not taking the opportunity to share those exemplary programs between schools.”
- “You have between 75 and 100 teachers on special assignment. There’s nothing wrong with teachers on special assignment. Yet, you weren’t able to find job descriptions. There’s no indication of their responsibility during the day and who they report to. There’s no accountability.”
- “Expenditure for textbooks has not decreased although student enrollment is down.”
- “There are too many signoffs and not enough encumbrances which means delays in budget expenditures. There have been improvements in recent months, but you still have a way to go.”
- “There is the need for a centralized bidding and purchasing process for all departments.”
- “Attempts to automate the payroll function have been unsuccessful. And the manual payroll function used is being carried out in obsolete applications. This requires the movement of paper documents and other archaic procedures.”
- “The treasurer’s office is to be applauded for bond [refinancing] in 2010 and 2012. It saved the district more than $10 million. And the same efforts in 2013 will probably save the district even more money.”
- “There no risk management program that involves training.”
- “In facilities, you have a very effective teamwork structure in place as well as an efficient trades-based organizational structure. Nonetheless, in transportation and other departments, you have no KPI’s [Keen Performance Indicators] in place. How do you know you’re being successful?”
- “You need a comprehensive energy conservation management program.”
- “Food service workers are very committed to their work. We observed that in several cafeterias. In our opinion, they show compassion and respect for the students.”
- “Using the number of meals served per labor hour, which is the standard, some of the cafeterias are overstaffed.”
- “Food service has operated as a deficit for many years. You have improved some, but you have not improved sufficiently to eliminate the deficit.”
- “You are to be commended for seeking the Walmart grant for food services.”
- “It does not appear you are aggressively seeking to qualify eligible students for free or reduced lunch. It can be sometimes difficult because of the perceived stigma associated with being in that program, particularly at the high school level, but stronger efforts are needed.”
- “We applaud the district for qualifying and receiving the additional six cents from the federal government for the use of nutrition standards.”
- “In transportation, the arbitrary decision for bus replacement incurs unnecessary costs. There needs to be an organized pattern for ordering buses on an annual basis. There needs to be the purchase of a handful of buses a year instead of ordering a number of buses that may not be needed when they show up all at once.
“And some administrators didn’t know buses were ordered the day we were in the building and the buses had arrived.”
- “The use of 96 buses to provide student transportation amounts to the ratio of one bus per 19 students. Some of your buses have the capacity to hold 76 students.”
- “Overtime is extensive among your school resources officers.”
- “Badges are not worn throughout the district. Some schools are very, very proactive in wearing badges and others are not. This is a safety issue.”
- “Another safety issue is that there’s a lot of buzzing without verifying who is coming through the door. Just because I am wearing a business suit does not mean I have any business being in that school building.”
- “In terms of personnel and customer service, not all schools are customer service friendly. You know which ones those are. The names of those schools will not be in the report.”
- “In technology, there is not sufficient use of funds which you are eligible for.”
- “The Department of Computer Services needs to be reorganized.”
Recio said the final report will have 11 chapters covering each of the major operations the board asked to have analyzed. Those 11 chapters will be:
- district administration.
- curriculum and instruction.
- human resource management.
- personnel management.
- financial management.
- food service.
- safety and security.
- fiscal impact.
Recio said the fiscal impact chapter would answer the question, “What does all this mean?”
Recio said the report will identify costs that TPS will have to incur in order to generate cost savings. All costs will be stated in 2013 dollars, and not pro-rated.
Recio said that each of Evergreen’s 150 to 200 findings will lead to a recommendation or a commendation, but not both. Evergreen will also identify every recommendation that it believes will require contract negotiations with one of the district’s three unions, Recio said.
Recio guaranteed the report will not be based on perceptual data, but hard data. It will include charts and figures, “and if we don’t give you the data, challenge us,” she said.
Making the report public
Discussion following Recio’s presentation focused on how the district would make the report available to the public. Cecelia Adams, TPS Board of Education (BOE) vice president, was concerned that board members have an opportunity to proofread the document before it is made available to the public. BOE committee member Bob Vasquez was concerned that “since the board commissioned this report, the fidelity of process necessitates that the board gets the full report and not a sanitized version of it.”
Treasurer Matthew Cleland, performance audit project manager, initially rejected Recio’s suggestion that Evergreen email the report to him. Cleland suggested Evergreen keep possession of the document and deliver it to the board and district administrators through a facilitator of Evergreen’s choice.
Cleland said his concerns were twofold: “First, the more people the report is shared with, the more likely it will get out to the public,” Cleland said. “And second, if it comes to me and I distribute it to the board, that makes it a public document.”
Vasquez suggested that the initial report be seen only by board and cabinet members and that the revised version become the public document.
‘A part of the public record’
Keith Wilkowski, TPS legal counsel, informed committee members that regardless of how TPS receives the report, “once a record is received by a governmental agency, it is a part of the public record even if it has the word ‘draft’ on it. As long as it is in your possession, it is public record.”
When it became clear that TPS could not withhold what Adams, Vasquez and cabinet members were calling a “rough” draft, Adams suggested the board schedule a public meeting for the first draft.
Recio suggested the word “rough” not be used to describe the initial draft. Recio suggested calling it the “final” draft. After the document is proofread by board members, administrators and taxpayers, Recio said Evergreen would create the one revision as required by contract.
Recio also said that any revision would only be made if the district provided facts or figures with hard data.
“This will not be a philosophical discussion,” Recio said. “There will be recommendations that everyone in this room will hate. I can guarantee it. And there will be recommendations that everyone in this room will love.”
Adams said she will take the discussion of when to hold the public meeting to the board’s March 26 regular business meeting. Recio suggested the district make the 500-plus page performance audit available online on TPS’s website on the date of the meeting at the time the meeting starts. She also suggested that since the cost of photocopying the full 500-plus page report is prohibitive, the board make Evergreen’s 20- to 25-page executive summary available to people who attend the meeting.