Audits find Evergreen school district lacking

Enrollment reporting issues among those found by state agency

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Two audit reports made public by the Washington State Auditor's Office on Monday noted that Evergreen Public Schools had some conditions significant enough to report as findings. The audit was for the 2010-2011 school year.

The Accountability Audit Report stated the district lacked adequate controls over enrollment reporting for its Alternative Learning Experience program, which includes its online academy.

For instance, for each ALE student, districts are required to have a written student learning plan designed to meet the student's individual educational needs. In its audit sampling, the report found that in one case the district did not have a learning plan in place.

The audit report states that based on a random sample, an error resulted in the district overreporting its enrollment of full-time equivalent students, and the district received an overpayment of approximately $810,887. The state reimburses schools based on FTE enrollment.

The district does not agree with the finding or the dollar value placed on the audit finding, said Mike Merlino, the district's chief operating officer.

Merlino said the state auditor's office found errors in their sample of student files that resulted in actual overpayment of about $25,000. The district said the auditor's office calculated a higher value by applying the same error rate to the total population of ALE students reported to the state. A number of school districts received the same type of finding regarding alternative learning, Merlino said.

Errors made

The second report, the Financial Statements and Federal Single Audit Report, said the district did not have adequate internal controls over its federal child nutrition verification process, resulting in inaccurate reporting. In its audit sampling, the report found the district made an incorrect eligibility determination for about 15 percent of the applications. For example, some errors were made in excluding parents' overtime pay to determine whether students were eligible for the school breakfast program and the national school lunch program.

In the next step, the audit resolution process, the district will work with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to determine how much funding, if any, should be repaid. Then the auditor's office will submit its report to the state.

The Evergreen district serves about 25,300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The district typically has a history of accountability audits free from reportable conditions. The previous 10 audits reported no findings.