Board subcommittees should not be meeting in non-public to the exclusion of other board members. Period. A recent action by your school board will show why.
On April 14, the TRSD Safety Committee along with police went into non-public to have a discussion with Homeland Security. The Safety Committee co-chairman, Kelly Ward, refused to allow me to be present during this non-public meeting even though I was there (during the public portion) and requested to attend. (I am not a member of the Safety Committee, which is a standing committee of the school board. I am, however, a member of the school board.)
At their previous Safety Committee meeting, that committee once again met in non-public with a Homeland Security representative.
Subsequent to this non-public safety committee meeting, the school board was asked to approve a Homeland Security matching grant for $48,000 in total. ($24,00 in TRSD commitment.) The board was not given any written material to support this need for money, nor was the board given, despite my request, the terms and conditions of the matching loan itself. The most sketchy details were floated of what would be done with this money, and a vote was taken, as it often is at our board, “on faith, and trust.” My personal account of those TRSD commodities is in overdraft right now.
Fortunately I was able to obtain more detailed information through public documents made available by the Manchester School District. They applied for the same grant.
What I learned from Manchester
- The equipment has to be purchased and installed by September 30, 2016 and the paperwork for reimbursement must be completed by Oct 31, 2016. I do not recall this being mentioned during our brief discussion of this grant because I would certainly have asked after our manpower to get all this ordered and installed in such a short time – as well as the bookkeeping followup during SAU summer hours.[Note: other board members got a single sheet of paper that I’ve subsequently learned did say that the equipment had to be installed by Sept. 30. That paper was absent my packet.]
- The equipment purchases must comply with OMB Circular 2 CFR 200 which requires in part that:
§200.62 Internal control over compliance requirements for Federal awards.
Internal control over compliance requirements for Federal awards means a process implemented by a non-Federal entity designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of the following objectives for Federal awards:
(a) Transactions are properly recorded and accounted for, in order to:
(1) Permit the preparation of reliable financial statements and Federal reports;
(2) Maintain accountability over assets; and
(3) Demonstrate compliance with Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the Federal award;
(b) Transactions are executed in compliance with:
(1) Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the Federal award that could have a direct and material effect on a Federal program; and
(2) Any other Federal statutes and regulations that are identified in the Compliance Supplement; and
(c) Funds, property, and other assets are safeguarded against loss from unauthorized use or disposition.
Oddly enough, this is exactly the issue Timberlane’s own auditors pointed out that we fell down doing – complying with the conditions of Federal program for equipment given to us or bought with Federal money.
“Basis for Qualified Opinion on CFDA No. 84.010 Title One Grants to Local Educational Agencies: As described in the accompanying schedule of findings and questioned costs, the Timberlane Regional School District did not comply with a requirement regarding CFDA No. 84.010 Title One Grants to Local Educational Agencies as described in finding number 2014-001 for Equipment and Real Property Management. Compliance with such a requirement is necessary, in our opinion, for the Timberlane Regional School District to comply with the requirements applicable to that program. ” (page 27 of the TRSD audit 2014, the most recent one available and not posted publicly.)
What else don’t we know?
Who knows what else about this rushed grant we don’t know. If I didn’t learn of this from another school district with a more robust commitment to transparency, I’d not even know this much. This is just one of the many problems with letting a subcommittee conduct its affairs in non-public to the exclusion of the rest of the board. The imaginable problems are countless because the board as a whole must operate on trust and faith rather than knowledge and facts when one of its sub-committees conducts its business in non-public to the exclusion of other board members.
Security: Yes; Blind Faith, NO
There is no doubt security matters must be discussed in non-public. There is also no question that these non-public meetings should not exclude other members of the board who just so happen not to be assigned to these particular sub-committees. If other members are content to operate on blind truth, that is their constituents’ loss. I plan to do my job and trust is a luxury for non-elected persons.
Manchester Board of School Committee also approved a Homeland Security grant, but their board had a detailed, written accounting of everything the grant money would be spent on as well as ALL the associated grant documents AND they posted this publicly. Manchester B of SC Agendas (See April 18, 2016 meeting materials.)
Is TRSD so transparent it is translucent, as Dr. Metzler claims? Really?
Why are TRSD’s audits not on public pages of our website? Why aren’t the SAU audits on the public pages of the SAU site?