Audit Reports Over $133,000 in Funds Lost During Former FMHS Principal’s Final Year

  • Dan Penner, FMHS principal from 2005-2011.

    Dan Penner, FMHS principal from 2005-2011.

By Patric Hedlund

A failure by the former principal at Frazier Mountain High School to document work and attendance of over 23 independent study students last year will cost the district over $133,000 in state revenues.

Improper Documentation

In their Wednesday, March 14 meeting packet, the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees were provided the June 30, 2011 audit report by Robert and James, Certified Public Accountants of Bakersfield.

The report says that improper documentation of student work and improper use of attendance software for independent study and special education students led to an error in attendance accounting.

“The independent study errors can be attributed to weak management and oversight of the program,” the auditors write. The report then goes on to explain how the district plans to avoid such a problem in the future:

“El Tejon Unified School District (ETUSD) has taken action to assure the error will not occur in the future. The action includes removal of the Principal, Assistant Principal and teacher for the program… Proper compliance for independent study has been instituted. [Independent study] contracts have been revised and contain proper signatures. A system for collecting and reviewing [student] work samples is now in place. The independent study administrator is reviewing the attendance records for accuracy at least once each month.”

The clear implication is that none of that was being done before the principal was removed in May of last year.

The History

The Frazier Mountain High School (FMHS) principal in the 2010-2011 audit year who was removed is Dan Penner, who was promoted from FMHS athletic director to principal in 2005 by former ETUSD superintendent John Wight (who left under an ethical cloud in 2006).

Penner was also principal during four years of turmoil over handling of Associated Student Body (ASB) funds.

Auditors from the office of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools reported that inappropriate use of ASB funds took place, but that determining whether or how much the ASB should be reimbursed was not possible because record keeping was so inadequate.

The current report states that the average salary in 2011 for the high school principal was $93,555. Despite the loss to the district due to mismanagement, it is unlikely the former principal will incur financial liability.

What Does It Mean?

Mark Fulmer, Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Kern County in the Division of Administration and Finance said in an interview on Wednesday, March 14 that because ETUSD is a “declining enrollment school district,” the errors will be reflected in lowered revenues to the district in the 2012- 2013 school year, and possibly into 2013-2014.

The exact amount lost to the district will depend on the funding formula put in place by the state for next year. Using figures in the audit, 23.51 students for which the school cannot charge due to faulty records, multiplied by $6,900 ADA (state stipend per student) the loss is $162,219. An adjustment downward, called the “deficit factor” by the state could bring that down to a $133,079 loss.

“This affects revenue calculation for last year and decreases the revenue they are getting this year,” Fulmer said, adding that the board must consider its options. “They may file a request for a waiver from the state, and secondly, may ask for a repayment plan so they don’t have to suffer the loss all in one fiscal year.”

Creating Solutions

Fulmer said of the current administrators, “they are creating a solution, not the problem, but they will take some hits as a result of this problem.”

ETUSD Superintendent Katie Kleier removed Penner from his position in May 2011 and transferred the vice principal to the middle school. The teacher overseeing the independent study students did not return this year.

Failure to document the attendance of the independent study students means the funds will never be paid to ETUSD, though people were employed to provide the services.

“This is a huge chunk of change that we are missing out on,” said ETUSD Trustee Anita Anderson.

The audit shows that in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011 the district was able to meet its expenses and maintain adequate reserves: “Overall revenues for all governmental funds were $11,297,321, which was $45,252 more than expenditures…,” the auditors wrote.

Trustees were reviewing the situation as this issue goes to press. We will continue this report next week.

This is part of the March 16, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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