State releases audit of school districts
by Courtney Stevens
Oct 04, 2013 | 2392 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Office of the State Auditor released the 2012-2013 Mississippi Student Information System School Audits Comprehensive Annual Report recently.

During the previous school year, OSA conducted audits in 46 school districts totaling 146 schools across the state, according to a press release from state Auditor Stacey Pickering’s office.

The audits reviewed the actions in the following categories: student enrollment, student absentee reporting, truancy reporting, graduation, suspensions, historical postings, teacher endorsements, textbook distribution, property internal controls, vehicle markings, and school safety.

While the audits open doors for improvement within the schools, the year's findings were less that satisfactory.

According the release, 35 percent of districts were not able to account for all of the students being reported to MSIS as being enrolled and in attendance; 96 percent of districts failed to verify student residency; 96 percent of districts are not following policy regarding absenteeism; 98 percent of districts were not following policy regarding reporting unexcused absences to the state; 22 percent of districts graduated students who had not met graduation requirements; and 85 percent of districts did not report suspensions as unexcused absences.

In addition, only 9 percent of the schools audited were in compliance with safety rules and regulations; and only 1 of the 46 districts audited provided textbooks, traditional bound books or other supplementary material, to each student enrolled in the selected classes.

In the auditor’s report of the 2012-2013 year, Cleveland schools studied were East Side High School, D.M. Smith Middle School and Nailor Elementary.

According to the report, "At East Side High, D.M. Smith Middle, and Nailor Elementary all the teachers reviewed have proper endorsements for the subjects they teach."

Parents at the last school board meeting brought up this issue, along with several others.

One of the other issues was lack of textbooks for this school year, 2013-2014.

Auditors noted in the 2012-2013 year, "Of the classes reviewed at East Side High, in 14 out of 20 classes, 276 out of 276 students were not individually assigned textbooks.

"Of the classes reviewed at D.M. Smith Middle, in 14 out of 20 classes, 246 out of 246 students were not assigned textbooks.

"Of the classes reviewed at Nailor Elementary, in 20 out of 20 classes, 404 out of 404 students were not assigned textbooks."

Jackie Thigpen, Cleveland School District superintendent, responded to the issue of textbooks by saying, "The district has ordered and is distributing textbooks as they are received.

"As stated in the comprehensive report published by the Auditor’s Office, CSD as well as most districts relies on various instructional materials and not just textbooks to provide instruction.

"The auditor also noted in the report 'with advancements in technology and the ever-changing state of the economy, OSA recommends that the MDE work with the legislature to make modifications to the law. These changes should allow for materials that are not necessarily distributable and take into consideration changes to curriculums and testing materials.'

"The district superintendents have shared these sentiments with Interim State Superintendent, Dr. Lynn House, MS Association of School Superintendents, MS School Board Association and local legislators. Hopefully, this change or modification to the law will be forthcoming.

"Nailor is a Kindergarten-second grade facility. We do not issue textbooks to kindergarten and first grade students."

The auditor's report said that in the 2012-2013 year, "East Side High is not following policy regarding student enrollment. Of the records reviewed, 18 out of 19 had missing, incomplete, or invalid proof of residency.

"D.M. Smith Middle is not following policy regarding student enrollment. Of the records reviewed, 5 out of 16 had missing, incomplete, or invalid proof of residency.

"Nailor Elementary is not following policy regarding student enrollment. Of the records reviewed, 5 out of 16 had missing, incomplete, or invalid proof of residency."

Thigpen responded, "Each folder had our district Residency Registration Checklist but the cites were a result of our not keeping actual copies of what a parent/guardian provided as proof of residency.

"The district now makes copies of proof of residency and attaches it to the Residency Checklist."

The auditor's report said, "At East Side High, the selected student’s information in the student package is not the same as the information kept in the student’s record. Of the records reviewed, 18 out of 19 student’s information did not match information in the student package.

"At D.M. Smith Middle, the selected student’s information in the student package is not the same as the information kept in the student’s record. Of the records reviewed, 8 out of 16 student’s information did not match information in the student package.

"At Nailor Elementary, the selected student’s information in the student package is not the same as the information kept in the student’s record. Of the records reviewed, 9 out of 16 student’s information did not match information in the student package."

Thigpen responded by saying, "This cite was a result of phone numbers and addresses in the student database not matching information in the student’s cumulative folder.

"We will continue and request parents to submit updated contact information such as address and phone numbers.

"The district makes every effort to update contact information in the student package and cumulative folders when it is provided by the parent/guardian.

"The MDE, Office of Accreditation has posted a new Cumulative Folder and Permanent Record Manual that has been shared with all district administrators and counselors."