Ed. Dept. removes financial advisor from school district

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 20, 2002

A State Department of Education Financial Advisory wasofficially removed from the Lincoln County School District Fridaymorning.

Judy Rhodes, who heads the education department’s Office ofFinancial Accountability, recommended the advisory’s removal duringa State School Board meeting Thursday.

“They have a letter from the state auditor approving thisaction,” said Superintendent Perry Miller.

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The recommendation was officially approved Friday morning andthe advisory removed.

“I am pleased that the financial integrity of the district hasbeen restored,” Miller said. “We never had a problem as far asmoney goes. Our problem was record-keeping.”

Ronnie Watson, the district’s financial advisor from theeducation department, said the district “can now get back to doingtheir normal business. Their records are in very good shapenow.”

The district was placed under the advisory July 23, 2001, afterreceiving an audit department disclaimer for poor records andembezzlement, Watson said.

To have the advisory removed, the district had to get theirrecords in order, he said.

“They basically couldn’t make a purchase or hire someone withoutmy approval,” said Watson, who oversaw the district’s financesduring the advisory period. “Now they’re conducting their ownbusiness again. It also removes an accreditation violation, whichput them on advised status.”

Advised status is essentially a warning to the district to acton the problem, Miller said, and does not affect accreditationunless nothing is done to solve the problem.

Miller said the strong efforts they made in resolving theproblem are evident by how long Watson worked with them. Accordingto Miller, when a district is assigned a financial advisor, theadvisor usually oversees the district for at least 18 months.

“Our financial advisor’s tenure with us was less than one year,”Miller said. “We made a concentrated effort to restore thefinancial credibility of our district in a minimal amount oftime.”

Watson praised the district officials for their efforts.

“There is a real good group of people down there now and theyare really working hard to see that things are done right and thekids get a good education,” Watson said.

The district’s fast action would not have been possible withoutthe aid of the department of education, Miller said.

“They were certainly a great help to us,” he said. “When weasked for help, they were here immediately.”