Thursday, April 26, 2012

Perhaps a financial audit is due here too

Is this the next step in our citizens vs school district saga too?

School district seals spending records 

By KATHY CLEVELAND and DEAN SHALHOUP The Telegraph of Nashua

WILTON — Rather than allow residents to review the results of a publicly funded analysis of spending on the school district credit card, the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board has decided to seal an attorney’s report for up to 50 years. The school board accepted Superintendent Trevor Ebel’s resignation during a nonpublic session Tuesday night. Ebel resigned amid the review of credit card expenses for such things as meals, movies, alcohol and limousines.
School board Chairman Geoff Brock called upon the 35 people in the audience to “trust the people you’ve elected. I think we have some very good, dedicated people.”
The financial analysis by attorney Dean Eggert was requested after an audit of school district expenditures turned up questionable expenses charged to the school district credit card, which was in Ebel’s possession and had his name on it.
A Telegraph review of credit card receipts charged to the district’s Citizens Bank credit card found charges for $200-per-night suites and meal tabs of up to almost $900. During one trip to San Francisco, Ebel signed two receipts for limousines on the card, one for $170 and one for $145.
Kristina Fowler, administrative assistant for School Administrative Unit 63, said Wednesday morning she couldn’t provide a copy of Eggert’s report because it was sealed by the board.
Asked how long it would be sealed, she said she thought it would be “for 50 years.”
The report was discussed in nonpublic session before the board meeting, and Brock announced that the investigation was complete.
The board not only sealed the report, it also sealed the minutes of the nonpublic session because the information could affect the reputation of a district employee, Brock told the audience.
At least some of the money spent on the trips to professional conferences was paid through federal grants.
“In general,” Brock said at the meeting, “the board supports use of federal funds for professional development. We are concerned about some of the things they bought.”
He didn’t elaborate.
Receipts showed that seven educators from the Wilton-Lyndeborough school district spent around $3,000 to stay at a Pittsburgh all-suite hotel, which involved commuting 70 miles round-trip to California, Pa., for a two-day conference, when they could have stayed much closer for much less money.
Among some of the other charges were:
$5,000 in room charges at Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel.
$3,600 for hotel rooms in San Francisco.
$724.35 for a meal at the McCormick & Kuletos seafood restaurant, including two orders of Chilean sea bass for $69.90 total and $123.75 for alcohol, when seven educators traveled to San Francisco.
$48 for a lunch for one person at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in San Francisco that included two Ultimate Margaritas at $12 each. The lunch lasted 45 minutes.
$894.14 for a meal for 14 at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Boston, including nine servings of filet mignon; two of those orders were porcini-dusted for a total of $73.90. Other dinners on the meal ticket included a bone-in ribeye steak for $43.50, a lamb chop for $35.95 and a pepper steak for $39.50.
Despite the restaurant serving 14 people, only 11 teachers were enrolled at the educational conference.
Ebel, who has been superintendent since June 2009, wasn’t at the meeting. Before getting the job, he was principal at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/Senior High School.
Current WLC Principal Brian Bagley will continue as acting superintendent until June 30, the end of the district’s fiscal year.
Ebel has agreed to stay on as a “consultant” to the school district for 30 days because his resignation didn’t meet his contractual obligation to give a certain amount of notice. He will be paid a per diem rate based upon his most recent salary — $98,000 a year — and will do only district work assigned to him. He will work from home.
Brock said a search would begin immediately for an interim superintendent.



Points To Ponder said...

Hopefully, the newly elected members of the school board , will monitor the "staff development" perks, here in Winchester. If the taxpayers weren't paying for the mini vacations and paid days off, it's doubtful that it would even exist. This sort of open ended , vague line item in the budget should be watched very closely.It's a great place for taxpayer abuse, and should stop.

WOW said...

Guess the good old boy club is alive and well in Wilton.

Anonymous said...

Sounds just like the problems we had with Stetser in the past and probably still have today with the rest of the BOS and School Board.

Anonymous said...

Let's not give these bozos any ideas. They are not the sharpest knives in the drawer and will follow anyone.

Fiscal Responsibilty said...

In this mornings NH news, Manchester, is facing a school deficit. The district is being responsive to the taxpayers, and has given out pink slips to 137 teachers, 10 vice principals, and cut various programs. They obviously don't subscribe to the same accounting methods that the Winchester District uses. When in deficiit, tax it. I hope that our new school board members take notice, and will keep the administration in line as the fiscal year winds to an end in June.

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath. The new additions subscribe to the theory that we can pay teachers to only have 10 students in a classroom. We can still have all the extra paras. Enough said, time to cut the budget again. It is not all administrative costs.

Anonymous said...

To annoy 11:15 Your comment "enough said it time to cut the budget"! Where have you been on the moon or someplace else like a closet. Last March the voters sent a loud and clear message, they do not want the school or town budgets cut. Quite evident with their decision to clear out the budget committee, remove Brian Moser as chairman while replacing other people with people like Beaman and Cole. Kiss my a$$ if you think the budget will ever be cut again.

If you like it or not you all are going to pay more in property taxes as inflation kicks in next year.

Anonymous said...

Also to 11:15. There are no such classed with only 10 childremn. Why dont you go in and visit the school and see for yourself before you talk about things you do not know. Also, regardless of the number of paras, these are postions that are state mandated if there is a special education student in the classroom needed that help. Duh!

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the selectmen meeting April 15 meeting. Selectmen are screeming the budget committee didn't act fairly on the town budget. Cry Cry Cry.

FYI said...

Followup in today's sentinel

Anonymous said...

No para position is state mandated. Positions arise as the "team" decides what is best for the students. Not every student is entitled to a one-on-one para. The students may have a group para. Check IDEA for further information. The goal is to have the student in the least restrictive environment. Also, check the student teacher ratio in other districts. Especially those districts with higher test scores.

We (the taxpayers) are the ones that are being asked to support education. We should be demanding the best for a reasonable amount of money. It is our responsibility to hold our agents responsible.

Anonymous said...

As stated in IDEA, if a student requires a 1:1 aide or shared para, the school must provide it, if it is in the students IEP. Thus state mandated.
How about holding parents responsible???

Anonymous said...

To 6:16 that might work. If parents were held responsible for their child's behavior we might not need to have a para. We could get the parent to come to school and assess the situation, work with the teachers and save the town some money. It could elminate the "reputation" that Winchester has in the area. We also might find out which teachers are successful with out students and eliminate those that do a mediocre job. I for one have no problem paying for top notch educators. I have a problem paying for educators that hold our students hostage with comments about budget issues.

Anonymous said...

Nice idea 5:26. A lot of parents take no responsibility, dont answer their phones or address the fact that their child has been absent most of the year and refuses to follow rules. The list goes on and on
the. Too bad we dont hold parents accountable or give them standardized tests to try to pass to ensure they are up to par. We expect the teachers to teach and parent.