The South Carolina Office of the Inspector General’s (SIG) review of embattled Richland county school district two has been published, and as expected it exposes multiple concerning operating procedures within the district.
FITSNews advocated for the S.C. General Assembly to empower the inspector general to audit school districts earlier this year, and reported on governor Henry McMaster calling on the SIG to use his newly granted power to investigate Richland school district two.
If you haven’t followed this district let me recap (a portion of) the news their “leadership” has made this year …
In January, the district’s superintendent was accused of lashing out physically at a parent during a school board meeting. Days later a lawsuit was filed alleging that the district ignored sexual harassment by members of the Ridge View High School basketball team. Another suit filed in May alleged that a district kindergarten teaching assistant gave an amphetamine pill to a kindergartener. The coup de grâce, though, was school board member Lashonda McFadden threatening to “catch” the chair of the school board’s “motherf***** a** outside” at a school board meeting.
District staff told the SIG “students were aware of Board behavior during Board meetings and questioned student discipline for the same conduct as that exhibited by the Board” according to the report.
“The SIG observed dysfunctional or non-existent communication and a lack of trust among Board members. Each Board member contributed to its dysfunction and ineffectiveness through petty disagreements and personal attacks of other Board members.”
An executive consultant hired to help the district improve its operations characterized it as “the most dysfunctional” they had ever encountered.
The school board members were only one focus of the report – which also reviewed financial and H.R. policies and procedures.
The district’s finances were of particular concern to the SIG, who cited failure to comply with state law when it executed a contract with a firm after receiving “the promise of gifts.”
A “Richland school district two foundation account” separate from district’s bank accounts had $138,575 of deposits intended for the district according to the SIG who suggested that the district “adopt internal controls and processes with the foundation to ensure that funds intended for the District are deposited into a District account.”
Notably the “SIG determined the foundation utilized commingled funds when it reported a $168,776 loss in gross receipts that included $81,337 of federal grant funds awarded to the District, not the Foundation.”
“The foundation issued a check for $50,000 to the Central Carolina Community Foundation on 12/31/22 that did not go to the benefit of the district. The SIG further determined the Foundation utilized $9,500 in commingled district funds to conduct a public opinion survey regarding a 2018 bond referendum.”
“The $81,337 in federal grant funds supported the Foundation’s application for and subsequent receipt of $50,000 in SC CARES Act funds. The Foundation issued a check for $50,000 to the Central Carolina Community Foundation on 12/31/22 that did not go to the benefit of the District.”
The SIG added that he intends to refer the receipt of the CARES funding by the foundation (and not the district) to the office of attorney general Alan Wilson.
The report also found that the district spent nearly $2.5 million over the last four years in payment to vendors to recruit international teachers, who were limited to five years of employment with the district while simultaneously failing to pay its current employees because it “lacked standard operating procedures for daily HR processes.”
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Stephen Gilchrist, a Richland two parent and member of its Black Parents Association – wasn’t surprised.
“The Inspector General’s report seems to confirm issues that parents and community leaders have raised for quite some time; lack of transparency, improved governance and a Board that seemed to be in disarray at times.”
Gilchrist added that he hopes “this document serves as a roadmap to ensure our district is not only responsive to the needs of our students, but to the larger tax-paying community as a whole” and that he looks forward to reviewing the report in its entirety in the coming days.
The entire (54 page) report is attached below. Like Gilchrist, I look forward to the opportunity to continue analyzing the report …
THE REPORT …605090177-Inspector-General-s-Investigation-of-Richland-School-District-Two
(Via: S.C. Inspector General)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Via: Coleman Rojhan)
Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Dylan primarily covers education when he isn’t producing video content. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.
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