School Board Report – Dec. 5 2012

School Board Report for the December 5, 2012 meeting.

The meeting was rather uneventful.  You can find the agenda and slides for informational items presented on the electronic school board agenda list on PWCS.edu (go to PWCS.edu, click on Leadership in the banner that runs across the top-ish portion of the page, click on School Board, then click on Electronic School Board.  When the page for the Electronic School Board appears, go to the far right hand side of the page and click on the tiny Agenda List, that will cause the Agenda List page to appear.  Change the Select Year drop down box to 2012; this will cause the list that appears to be all of the board meetings that have been held or will be held in 2012.  Find the line for Dec. 5 2012 and click on it; that will cause the agenda for the Dec 5 2012 meeting to appear).

Consent Agenda

The Consent Agenda was approved unanimously.  The following items were on the Consent Agenda (the Consent Agenda is a place where items that need to be voted on but don’t need debate are simply approved in one big vote.  We monitor this closely as things we find controversial sometimes appear on the Consent Agenda).

  • Be There Prince William Month
  • Comprehensive One Stop Memorandum of Understanding Addendum between Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) and Prince William County
  • National External Diploma Program (NEDP) Site Letter of Agreement between Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) and the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems Referred to as CASAS
  • Special Warrant for School Board Review and Approval of October 2012 Payroll
  • Reciprocal Easement and Development Agreement – UVA Elementary School Site
  • Application for Fiscal Year 2013 Safe Routes to School Program for the Antietam Road Sidewalk Project – Old Bridge Road to Woodfern Court – Occoquan Magisterial District
  • Confirmation of Board Poll – Legal Notice Requirement
  • Approval of School Board Meeting Minutes for November 20, 2012

Citizen Comments

Three citizens addressed the school board.

A gentleman from the electoral board asked that the school division consider closing school every election day to manage increased traffic needed for elections.

A young woman who attends Hylton and the Governor’s School discussed the opportunities that have been available to her as a result of her involvement in the Governor’s School.

A young man who attends Forest Park discussed the support he’s received from his teachers relating to computers.  With his teachers support he’s obtained a number of IT certificates and has started his own computer company which has 6 employees and over 100 customers.  {editor’s note – if the young man reads this and does work on MACs, can you drop us a line?  My MAC has been acting a bit cranky lately}

Regular Agenda

2013 – 2014 School Year Calendar

Dr Cassada of the Office of Student Learning and Accountability presented the proposed calendar for the 2013 – 2014 school year.  School will begin on September 3 and end on June 17.  There will be 182 instructional days for elementary students and 183 for middle and high school students.  Because of our longer instructional day, the calendar has approximately 8 “snow” days built in.

Regarding closing on election day, Dr Cassada noted that in non-Presidential election years, schools are closed for students on election day with elementary schools holding parent / teacher conferences and middle and high schools holding teacher work days.  In Presidential election years schools are closed for teachers and students.  The Principals serving on the calendar committee felt that this plan worked well and asked that it continue in the 2013 – 2014 school year.

One item of concern was noted regarding the calendar.  Schools will be closed on Monday January 27 for a teacher work day, students will return for a full instructional day on Tuesday January 28, and then elementary students will be out for a half day on Wednesday January 29 for conferences.  Lisa Bell asked if the half day was fixed or if it could be shifted back to Tuesday as the amount of learning happening on that half day and that full Tuesday would be limited.  {editor’s note – we agree with Ms Bell and would go a step further.  These half days are a waste of time.  Just like the last few days of the year, students watch movies, play games, and fiddle around.  We should either give the full day off or send kids for the full day. Pretending that some academic value is imparted in a half day is just silly.}

I have one question for staff that was not asked.  Did we apply for a wavier to start school before Labor day?  If so, why was it denied?  If we did not apply, why didn’t we apply?

Facilities Planning Policy Change

Change is just language.

Annual Audit Report and Audit Plan for Coming Year

The Internal Auditor presented her findings and audit plan for the coming year.  PWCS only has one internal auditor who reports to the audit committee and not management.  She conducted 10 unannounced audits of schools with the primary focus of those audits on ensuring proper processes are in place for managing cash and securing school division property.  She also audited 10 procurement cards, food services, and other areas.

Next year she will conduct 15 unannounced school audits, 1 announced school audit, 3 follow-up school audits, 15 procurement cards audits, 2 food service site audits, and address concerns reported through the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Hotline.  She will also conduct leave audits and examinations / advisory services for other areas.

School Board Members had many questions for the auditor {Editor’s note – wording for questions and answers are not exact }

Mrs Covington: Why does the audit period go from 1/1 to 12/31 as the school year is 7/1 to 6/30?

Answer:  The audit period was established when the internal audit function was first created based on the election of a new school board.  It can be changed easily.

Mrs Jessie:  I’d like a clear understanding for the reasoning behind unannounced visits as that puts the school and Principals out and ruins their day.

Answer: Unannounced audits are the industry best practices for school audits to protect against fraud.  We do that because of the amount of cash in the building to ensure that it’s deposited each night as per policy and to ensure proper custodianship of school assets.  Auditor generally meets with the bookkeeper and school property custodian and then loops back around and meets with Principal to discuss findings.  Auditor doesn’t go into audits blind and does advance work so as to mitigate impact on school staff and Principals.

Mrs Jessie: Are there transitional audits when a person with budgetary authority leaves and is replaced?

Answer:  Yes, if there were previous audit issues followed by a change in leadership, auditor will meet with the new leader.  Budget is not internal audit’s responsibility so any transition of budget processes comes from finance staff.

Dr Otaigbe:  In the past few weeks we’ve been treated to the news that the BOCS has removed their internal audit staff and replaced them with an outside contractor.  How big is our internal audit office?

Answer : 1 person, but staff are very helpful.

Dr Otiagbe: How does your relationship with staff affect your independence?

Answer: Auditor has no direct relationships with staff and would disclose it to the audit committee if she felt her relationship with staff might affect her independence.

Dr Otaigbe:  What happens when someone reports something to the tip-line?

Answer: That depends on what is reported.  Auditor conducts preliminary investigation and may plan an unannounced audit if the report is credible.  One of our unannounced audits last year was based on a tip.

Dr Otaigbe:  Would better use of technology make things easier and require fewer site visits and less disruption to instructional day?

Answer:  Yes.  Some of our processes are still very paper dependent and better use of technology would make those processes more efficient.  However, some of the paper processes leave an audit trail that is east to reconcile.

Mrs. Bell:  What are best practices for internal audits?

Answer:  There really aren’t any.

Mrs Bell:  Are internal audit reports available on-line?

Answer:  No, but audit reports are public record once they’ve been reported to the audit committee and can be made available to anyone who is interested.

Avendale Development Attendance Area

Mr Trenum asked that the school board consider changing the land known as the Avendale Development area from T.Clay Wood to Nokesville elementary school starting in the fall of 2013.  Avendale’s developer has begun site work and is advertising the property now with the homes listed as attending T Clay Wood.  T Clay Wood is at capacity with rising enrollment and won’t be able to absorb the new students set to arrive from Avendale in the coming years.  Adjusting their boundaries now, before the homes begin to sell, will ensure that parents have full information about which schools their children will attend.  Currently there are 4 students attending T Clay Wood that would be affected by this change.  Those students could be grandfathered in and allowed to continue to attend T Clay Wood until the boundary change associated with the opening of the Nokesville K – 8 is implemented in the fall of 2014 {editor’s note – We think this is a wise decision.  The change wouldn’t affect any students as the students currently living in the Avendale Development Area who attend T Clay Wood would continue to go to T Clay Wood through the end of this school year and in the 2013 – 2014 school year.  Whether their base school will change for the 2014 – 2015 school year, when the Nokesville K – 8 opens, will depend on the recommendation of the boundary change committee. }

Staff will be prepared to discuss the matter in more detail at the December 19 meeting.

Board Matters

Chairman Johns reminded viewers of the process for filling the Woodbridge seat vacated by Denita Ramirez.  Applications to be the interim appointee must be received by 4:30 PM on 12/14/2012, as per statute.  Candidates are expected to give a 5 minute speech to the public and school board on 12/19 explaining why they believe they are best suited to serve as the interim appointee.  School board will appoint someone on 1/2/2013.  An election to fill the seat will be held in sometime next year {editor’s note – the date of the election to fill the Woodbridge seat has become somewhat controversial.  The school division’s press release on the matter indicated that it would be in the spring of 2013, which would mean a special election at PWC taxpayer expense.  This made many people very unhappy.  It appears that the election may be in November when the next general election occurs or in the spring.  The date depends on the ruling of the circuit court based on their interpretation of 24.2-226 of The Code of Virginia.  That ruling, called a writ, has not been issued yet as the school division has not filed their petition with the circuit court and will not do so until 12/ 14 when applications to serve as the interim appointee have been received.}

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