Rockwood School Board responds to audit
By: Carol Enright
Dozens packed the Rockwood School Board meeting on March 7.
Ostensibly, they were there to hear the Board respond to the state audit report presented to the public just eight days earlier – a report whose most serious finding was $1.2 million in overpayments over the past 10 years to Glenn Construction Co., the construction management company that has almost exclusively handled the district’s bond construction projects for more than 20 years.
Since the audit findings were made public, district officials have said they are addressing all of the audit’s recommendations and, in fact, have already implemented some of them. Board President Janet Strate said the district’s attorneys are looking into the feasibility of recouping the overpaid funds. And the Board unanimously approved a new construction manager selection policy that makes moot the state auditor’s concerns with the district’s construction management bid process.
However, as the district’s Chief Financial Officer Tim Rooney delivered a tedious line-by-line explanation of how the district is addressing each concern raised by the audit, many of those in attendance began to peel off. The real fireworks had already taken place at the start of the meeting – with Rockwood patrons speaking for and against the Board and the $38.4 million bond issue that will be on the April 2 ballot.
Rockwood parent Barb Woytus, of Ellisville, criticized “all this naysaying and finger pointing” and said she supported the Board and Superintendent Bruce Borchers.
“I’m glad you extended Dr. Borchers’ contract,” Woytus said.
Rockwood parent Nancy Robinson, of Wildwood, suggested that the Board delay putting Prop S on the ballot until the fall, so that the state auditor can return and “make sure all the ducks are in a row” before asking the community to support a bond issue.
District attorney Lisa Stump said, “it’s too late” to take the bond issue off the ballot.
Stump said Feb. 21 was the “drop dead date” to remove an item from the ballot.
Susan Tiffany, of Ballwin, criticized the Board for the $1.2 million in overpayments cited in the audit and renewing Borchers’ contract.
“Your actions are insulting to this community,” said Tiffany.
In a moment that symbolized just how personal criticisms of the Board and the superintendent have become, Borchers’ wife, Shannon, made an emotional statement about her husband’s commitment to the district.
“He’s passionate about student achievement and his eyes absolutely sparkle when he talks about it,” said Mrs. Borchers. “He keeps working hard while facing terrible criticism in the media, from bloggers and special interest groups.”
And she made an impassioned plea to the community.
“I would like to ask the community – patrons and critics – to remember that there is no school board, no administration, no superintendent, no teacher or person who is perfect. People who are working for the kids in our district have the best of intentions, even if they don’t always agree on every issue,” she said. “Every person in this room cares deeply about our district. What we all need to do now is put kindness and forgiveness in our hearts, work together, learn together and become cohesive in our efforts to look toward the future with positive words and actions that are focused on the good of our community and our students.”
Board Directors Bill Brown and Sherri Rogers assured the community that the Board is working hard to address their concerns.
“In my humble opinion, most of the mistakes that have been made have been committed by acts of omission, not intentional acts designed to hurt anyone,” said Brown.
“We get it. We understand that this is a serious situation,” Rogers said.
One way the Board is addressing issues raised in the audit is by establishing a Bond Oversight Committee to oversee the expenditure of bond issue funds. The committee’s first meeting is March 11 at 1 p.m. at the district’s Central Services office in Eureka.
Strate closed the March 7 meeting by reading from a prepared statement.
“The audit pointed out some very old practices that have been questioned for years by many Board members,” Strate said. “As a Board member, our job is not to audit contracts. It is the CFO’s responsibility to know what he or she is paying out. As a Board, we are to trust that we have put the right people in the right jobs.”
Then, Strate referenced the controversy surrounding resigned Board Director Steve Smith and Glenn Construction Co.
“We have taken the audit seriously. Please stop confusing the word ‘disagreement’ with ‘confusion.’ When we pointed out that we had two legal opinions on what Steve Smith could vote on, and the auditor said that those opinions were wrong, we were confused, not disagreeing.”
Strate concluded by asking the community to support Prop S.
“Please do not punish the children of Rockwood because you are angry with seven adults,” she said.
The public can follow the district’s progress in implementing each of the audit recommendations online at the district’s website: www.rockwood.k12.mo.us/boardofeducation/audit2012.