Schools audit shows oversight deficiencies in Valparaiso
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 30, 2014 7:10PM
Updated: June 2, 2014 12:55PM
VALPARAISO — A state audit warns the Valparaiso Community School Corp. could lose some federal funding or programs if greater oversight measures aren’t implemented.
In response, school officials pledged changes in the handling of federal programs, including accounting for free and reduced meals and new hires for the Title 1 program for at-risk students, in light of an Indiana State Board of Accounts audit of the corporation from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013.
On a number of points, the audit noted that the school corporation could lose federal grants because of its lack of compliance and program oversight. The state board released the report, with a response from school officials, on April 23.
According to the audit, the school corporation did not have proper controls in place to ensure accurate reporting of federal grant money.
The state audit found mistakes in the school corporation’s reporting of federal expenditures for both years under review; those errors have since been corrected, according to the audit.
The school corporation “has not established an effective internal control system” for oversight of its federally funded breakfast and lunch programs for low-income students.
That included not spot-checking student information software for the program to ensure students met income guidelines, and not making sure income generated from the federal grants was properly accounted for.
“Noncompliance of the grant agreement or the compliance agreements… could result in the loss of federal funds,” the audit states.
Food service director Cindy Licciardone said in a response that changes have been made to provide greater oversight to the program.
The audit also found fault with the corporation’s Title 1 program for at-risk students, including cash management and provisions for highly qualified teachers.
The school corporation hasn’t implemented adequate policies and procedures to make sure reimbursement requests are accurately prepared, or that required reports are properly prepared and submitted on time.
Oversight also is an issue with teachers through Title 1.
“The School Corporation has not implemented policies and procedures to ensure that all teachers of core academic subjects meet the definition of ‘highly qualified,’” according to the audit. “The individual building principals are not consistently signing the evaluation application, which certifies that teachers meet the required qualifications for being highly qualified.”
Once again, the audit noted that the lack of controls could result in the loss of federal funds.
In the corporation’s response, chief financial officer Sharon Qualkenbush said school principals “will verify that a new teacher is highly qualified,” and submit documentation to the human resources staff.
The audit also notes that the general fund had a negative balance at times, because of state funding cuts that resulted in declining revenue. The administration took action to balance the budget, according to the audit, and 2013 expenditures were about 3 percent under budget, without money being taken from the corporation’s Rainy Day Fund.
Superintendent Michael Berta and Qualkenbush said in their response that changes were made starting in August 2012, when Berta became interim superintendent, to end the over-draw of the general fund, and the fund had a cash balance of almost $1.4 million in January.