Nick Onyshko and Tammie Christianson (shown here at a prom event) told ETUSD Trustees in November 2007, “Give us [ASB] back our money.” They have both graduated, and ASB is still waiting.
“No accountability” and “poor money handling” by the high school principal and the advisor to the Associated Student Body (ASB) led to disarray in student accounts for the years 2006-07 and 2007-08, said Nick Onyshko, now in college, in an interview last week. A county review shows revenues of $439,459 for those years, with an alleged student deficit of $46,803. The following transcript of the interview are Onyshko’s thoughts about those figures.
Kern County Superintendent of Schools’ Internal Auditor Jason Kaff read his devastating review of the district’s handling of ASB accounts for those two years at the April 14, 2010 meeting of the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees. Trustee Paula Regan said “a student has reported that everything is O.K., so it is finished.” She was referring to Nick Onyshko who spoke to the board a year earlier, in April 2009, just before his graduation.
That same night, then-ASB President Onyshko told The Mountain Enterprise and Trustee John Fleming that ASB officers had not been given the records they requested from the principal and the bookkeeper to make a determination for themselves.
Onyshko said students were given oral “explanations” for some of the $10,000 he and other ASB officers thought might be owed to the students, but nothing in writing, and no documentation.
Since the mission of ASB is to teach students how to run a small business and how to be accountable, this handling of their questions—and their accounts—is noteworthy, and Onyshko says today it is definitely not yet “O.K.”
We asked Onyshko, now in college with what he calls a “brutal schedule,” to respond to a series of questions by email about his thoughts regarding Kaff’s report. Here are our questions and his replies.
The Mountain Enterprise: Both years (06-07 and 07-08) show the students running a deficit, $46,803 to be exact. With all the questionable expenses and poor tracking of student money, how can it be proven that students ran deficits?
Nick Onyshko: It was poor money handling procedures that lacked enforcement and regulation from the high school administration (including ASB Advisor Rob Roy and Principal Dan Penner) that in my opinion led to the deficit.
There was no accountability. Roy would keep wads of cash in his desk and ask his students to count the money without close supervision. Procedures were weak and even these weak procedures were not followed.
There were numerous expeditures during this two year period that lacked the required signatures, most were missing student signatures, and some were even missing the principal’s signature. Regardless of the lack of signatures, these expenditures were paid without question.
TME: Was the cumulative deficit charged to the ASB to make up? Is it possible that the school owes the students $45,000 or more?
Onysko: How can that be known without an audit? Most of the expenses that added up to the $45,000 or so were inappropriate uses of student funds. I feel that a full and thorough audit would uncover more discrepancies and holes in the weak and unregulated procedures in place during that time period.
TME: Do you think it is possible there is still money owed to the student ASB fund?
Onysko: As I mentioned above, there is always the possibility, and I am unsure if the expenses that [the bookkeeper] billed to the district were ever received by the ASB.
TME: Are you satisfied that this random sampling technique used by Jason Kaff and the board is adequate?
Onysko: I believe that a full and thorough audit will be better for the district and ASB in order to have closure on this issue.
However, I am very glad that the board decided to act on this issue and I am sure I can speak for the past and present ASB when I say that this issue matters to the students of FMHS and the ASB leaders who ultimately must work with this deficit which they did not incur.
TME: What questions would you have asked if you had been provided this report in advance and been there to speak for yourself?
Onyshko: I would have definitely questioned the purchase of alcohol. Was it an actual purchase of alcoholic containers such as a 20 pack of Bud Light or was it a reimbursement from a conference…in which the attendee ordered a glass of wine with dinner and received a reimbursement from ASB? Neither one of these uses of ASB funds is by any means appropriate, but this is something that I have been pondering.
TME: Are you confident that the student fund has received all the money owed to it from 2006-07 and 2007-08?
FOR THE RECORD
In our April 23, 2010 report we listed the cumulative 06-07 plus 07-08 ASB deficit as $45,503. The total should be $46,803, using Kaff’s figures. See the April 23 piece for a complete background on this story.
This is part of the May 14, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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