- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - The St. Joseph school district has made significant progress since receiving a highly critical audit earlier this year, the Missouri State Auditor’s office said.

St. Joseph school board members and district staff met with auditor officials Tuesday to discuss progress made in 17 areas of concern noted when the district was given a “poor” rating in February. Among other things, auditors found the district handed out at least $25 million in unapproved stipends to administrators in the previous eight years. Other problems included improper promotions, unreasonable purchases with school funds, improper closed meetings and mismanaged bond investments.

Some recommendations for improvements are already in place and other are in progress, “so I think the patrons of the school district ought to be appreciative of that,” said Darrell Moore, chief litigation counsel for the auditor’s office.

The district plans to study salary compensation later this year to address stipend and extra-duty pay and to better track hourly employee overtime, The St. Joseph News-Press reported (https://bit.ly/1Rni4h9 ). And it has been working with state education officials to address summer school funding, another issue raised by the audit. Moore also said the school board had vastly improved its handling of open meetings procedures and in providing transparency about its actions.

Moore said no further recommendations will be made. The auditor’s office is expected to issue a final report in six to eight weeks.

Board President Brad Haggard said the progress report was welcome but more work needs to be done.

“There are at least a dozen more policies that need to be reviewed and then when we get those policies in place then the district staff can shore up procedures,” Haggard saidl.

Interim Superintendent Jake Long said the audit will make the district stronger.

“From the very beginning we said we were taking the process seriously and we were going to implement everything they said. Everything they said we need to fix we’re going to fix,” Long said.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, https://www.newspressnow.com


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