06-19-12: School district earns tenth straight perfect state audit
06-19-12: School district earns tenth straight perfect state audit

For the tenth straight year, the Puyallup School District has received a perfect state audit report.

The Auditor’s Office recently released its financial review of how the district received and spent its money in the 2010-11 school year.

Auditors concluded that Puyallup has sound financial practices and complies with state laws and regulations, as well as its own policies and procedures, to protect taxpayers’ interests.

The annual audit focuses on the district’s financial statements and on specific areas that have the potential for abuse and misuse of public resources, such as cash receipting and grant funding.

This year, the audit focused on federal grants including Title I and special education funding, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal stimulus money given to school districts nationwide.

As in past years, the audit also examined the district’s compliance with laws concerning open public meetings, school board minutes, and conflict of interest.

“We are obviously thrilled with the results,” said Laura Marcoe, director of accounting and purchasing. “Once again, the results reflect that we are accountable to our taxpayers.”

Marcoe said the long string of clean audits did not happen by accident. She praised the efforts of Superintendent Tony Apostle and Deputy Superintendent Debra Aungst, who are both retiring this month.

“They have set an expectation throughout our school district of transparency and accountability,” Marcoe said. “Clean audits are the expectation every year and are considered business as usual.”

Marcoe said she is especially proud of the district’s handling and reporting of Title I federal money. The funds are given to schools with large concentrations of low-income students to assist in meeting students’ educational goals.

Accurate record-keeping and timely reporting are required by schools that receive the funds, said Nancy Arnold, director of assessment and accountability.

Arnold oversees the Title I program and conducts a staff training each fall to explain to district employees how to be good stewards of the federal money.

Puyallup’s track record of being accountable with Title I money has resulted in the district being asked by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to share advice with other districts about its reporting methods, she said.

Longtime Meeker Elementary Title I teacher Gail Miller is one of many staff members districtwide responsible for reporting the number of students served with the federal money. She and a paraeducator (teaching assistant) support 70 students who qualify for extra reading and math instruction this year.

Since some of the federal money is targeted for parent involvement, Meeker Elementary has developed a detailed “Parent Involvement Plan” that is shared each fall with parents of students in the Title I program.

Parents learn at the fall meeting how students are assessed and selected to receive Title I services, as well as how the services will be delivered. Students and families are supported, for example, by special activities such as reading and math nights.

Tammy Bigelow, the state’s assistant audit manager for this region, commended the district on a decade of consecutive clean audits.

“Considering how much federal money goes through the district, it really shows a lot of effort on the district’s part to get clean audits,” Bigelow said.

Corine Pennington, the school district’s executive director of business services, added, “Ten consecutive years without any audit exceptions is a significant accomplishment. Each audit involves the review of thousands of transactions and testing of our compliance and internal control procedures.”

Pennington continued, “Every employee in the district should be proud because, in addition to strong leadership, this accomplishment is attributable to our excellent staff that consistently chooses to do the right thing and follows our policies and procedures.”