Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Superintendent Shows Up: Surprises "Seminal" Committee

On the agenda for the 3/17/09 Board of Education Fiscal Management Committee meeting was a review of the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits Report on MCPS. This would be the first time that this 91 page State Audit of MCPS would be addressed by members of the Board of Education since it was released in January.

Ten minutes into the beginning of the committee meeting Superintendent Weast walked into the room and sat down at the table. The Chair, BoE member Chris Barclay, completed his statement about being clear on the MCPS procurement process, and then noted that it was rare to have Superintendent Weast attend a Board committee meeting. He then turned the meeting over to Superintendent Weast and the agenda for the meeting was set aside.

Superintendent Weast spoke for about half an hour on his prediction that 2011 will be a worse budget year than 2010. He discussed the waiver of the maintenance of effort and whether that waiver request would come from the County Executive as a blanket waiver. He said that an individual waiver was preferable. He said that the Fiscal Management Committee "was now the seminal committee" because of budget concerns for FY 2011. Superintendent Weast then left the room and the committee returned to their original agenda.

The discussion of the State Audit of MCPS was abbreviated to say the least. There was little time for Board member questions as MCPS COO Larry Bowers read through the list of State Auditor recommendations and reiterated the MCPS position on each, as already stated in the Appendix to the Audit. While the surprise visit by Superintendent Weast was no doubt illuminating, a detailed discussion and implementation of some of the recommendations in the State Audit could go a long way to alleviating a financial crisis for MCPS.

Of note, was the fact that when Superintendent Weast spoke he mentioned sums of $24 million here and $80 million there as potential gaps in the MCPS budget. All the while ignoring that MCPS no longer brings major procurements to the Board of Education table for approval and, as an example, last summer went out and purchased over $13 million worth of Promethean Boards without so much as a hint of this expenditure at the Board table. How much of this type of unmonitored purchasing goes on in MCPS is not clear. But certainly bringing major procurements to the Board table for a vote would go a long way to regulating the spending of this $2.1 +/- billion school system and averting crisis.

Specifically, recommendation 18 in the Audit was that "MCPS should adopt formal policies governing long-term obligations and cash management". The Fiscal Management Committee did not discuss this recommendation. COO Bowers simply stated that they "are looking at a cash management policy". He also said with regard to long term obligations, they "need to formalize practices in place and bring them to the Board". There was no Board committee action on this recommendation. The committee then moved on to the next recommendation.

Some recommendations in the Audit will be brought back to the Fiscal Management Committee at a later meeting.

1 comment:

  1. "There was little time for Board member questions." Oh please. The BOE is the elected body, not the county employees at MCPS. Mr. Barclay could have cut the MCPS employees off at any time and directed the meeting to accomplish what was on the agenda. Instead he actively decided to not do his job. Mr. Barclay, if you can't meet the responsibilities of a Board member, please resign.


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