Auditor reports financial finding in Washougal schools

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

Updated: May 23, 2011, 6:35 PM

 

The Washougal School District did not comply with federal grant requirements for the highly qualified teachers and paraprofessionals program, according to the Washington State Auditor’s Office.

The auditor’s office discovered what it defined as “material weaknesses” during a regular financial audit examining records from Sept. 1, 2009, through Aug. 31, 2010. The auditor’s report was released Monday.

The auditor’s office found the Washougal district incorrectly reported one teacher as highly qualified to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The district also didn’t complete the required plan for the teacher and didn’t notify parents when more than four consecutive weeks were taught by a teacher who did not meet the highly qualified requirements, according to the report.

The state is questioning $31,687.69 in payroll costs the district charged to the federal Title I grant program for the teacher, according to the report.

School districts receive federal Title I funding to improve the teaching and learning of children at risk of not meeting state standards. Those include children who live in areas with high concentrations of low-income families.

The auditor’s office recommended the district contact OSPI to determine how much, if any, money the state should recover from the district. Superintendent Teresa Baldwin said the district is still awaiting word from the state.

The Washougal district admitted it incorrectly reported one teacher as highly qualified. The teacher was highly qualified in special education but not in mathematics. He was hired to teach two periods of Title I math at the middle-school level, Baldwin said.

A highly qualified mathematics teacher served as a math coach to provide support, mentoring and assistance to the teacher in question. The mentor was designated the “teacher of record.” District officials believed because the teacher was monitored by another teacher, who was highly qualified and was the Title I teacher of record, that it was meeting federal requirements, according to the report.

“There was no intent to incorrectly report the teacher in question,” the district wrote in its response.

The district didn’t notify parents because officials thought the district was providing sufficient instruction and meeting federal requirements by having a highly qualified mentor in place, according to the report.

The district also addressed the state’s finding that the district didn’t complete the required highly qualified plan for the teacher. The teacher in question had signed a plan for achieving the highly qualified accreditation with Evergreen Public Schools eight months prior to being hired in Washougal in August 2009. The district accepted the plan and believed it was sufficient because it was less than 1 year old, according to the report.

The teacher failed the certification test for mathematics in spring 2009 and, without notifying the district, elected not to take the exam in spring 2010.

The teacher was fired when his contract expired in 2010.

The state auditor’s office said it will review the district’s corrective action during its next audit.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.