Despite community member frustration that the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Western Heights Public Schools audit was not presented for a second meeting in a row, interim Superintendent Brayden Savage told reporters following today’s meeting that she is already working on corrective actions related to the troubling findings.
“I can still read the audit, and I’m still going forward to clean up the things that, obviously, if they found these things and we were not able to produce any other documentation to show differently, then I need to look at,” Savage said. “I know I’ve said it a million times to you, those processes and procedures we have in place to make sure we’re accounting for anything that has happened.”
An item that did make it to Thursday’s agenda would have canceled the district’s contract with the Center for Education Law, a private firm focused on representing Oklahoma school districts that was hired by Western Heights after the State Department of Education took control of the district.
However, the agenda item will be carried over to the board’s July meeting after a split vote where board members Briana Flatley and Darrin Dunkin voted against the motion and board President Robert Everman and Vice President Rob Sharp voted for it. Board member Linda Farley was absent from the afternoon’s meeting.
After the meeting, Flatley and Dunkin said they do not know who had the final say in requesting the item to cancel the contract. Savage said she did not request to place the item on the agenda.
“It was an idea that came from the state (to hire the law firm), so obviously I don’t want to step on toes with the state while there is still litigation going on,” Flatley said. “While we’re under state control, I want to keep those practices and procedures in place just because it’s something they wanted and brought in for [former Superintendent Monty Guthrie] when (he) was here as the interim. I feel like that’s the respect we should give Brayden as the current interim so she has that comfortability.”
‘We need to get it out there’
The Western Heights audit was initially released publicly by News 9 on June 14 and contains 19 significant deficiencies, including employees being under and overpaid, a lack of internal controls for federal program revenue and expenditure reporting, and an unauthorized $25,000 bonus paid to suspended district Superintendent Mannix Barnes.
During a State Board of Education meeting last week, board members approved a resolution requiring the southwest Oklahoma City district to retain a qualified accountant through an RFP process to work in cooperation with Savage and legal counsel to get the district’s financial records on track.
Sharp, the board’s vice president, was asked his thoughts on the audit following the afternoon’s approximately eight-minute meeting.
“I don’t have anything to comment on that. We haven’t gotten any information on it,” Sharp said.
When asked if he had seen the audit, Sharp said “not yet.” When asked if he would like to see the audit, Sharp did not respond.
Flatley said she has seen media reports on the audit but that she does not know if she has reviewed its “final draft.” Both Dunkin and Flatley want to see presentation and review of the audit placed on a meeting agenda for the sake of transparency.
“We need to get it out there, and we need to actually let people know we are working on it,” Dunkin said. “I don’t want the community to think we’re trying to hide anything.”