SUNDAY EDITION | A year after the JCPS state audit, where does t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SUNDAY EDITION | A year after the JCPS state audit, where does the district stand?

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State Auditor Adam Edelen State Auditor Adam Edelen
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nearly a year after a state audit of Jefferson County Public Schools resulted in 45 findings and more than 200 recommendations, the district has responded and made changes to all but seven of the areas outlined in the 300-page report.

“There is a lot of important work that has been done...and it all revolves around transparency and continuous improvement,” Superintendent Donna Hargens told WDRB News in a sit-down interview on Friday. “We took the audit very seriously and have methodically worked through the findings. The district is better because of this process.”

The year-long review – the largest ever conducted by a Kentucky state auditor – was released on May 21, 2014. It found a top-heavy bureaucracy that was spending more money on administration and less on instruction than similarly-sized school districts and suggested that JCPS make a number of changes.

The audit did not uncover any evidence of corruption in the district's central office.

District officials have unveiled several responses to the audit. Among them are the creation of a financial transparency website, the establishment of a district-wide school supply list and conducting a comprehensive salary review of all district employees, which is scheduled to be completed this summer.

“From the get-go this has always been about making sure that school system ran for the benefit of kids and taxpayers,” Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen told WDRB News last week. “Structural reform was a big part of our examination, as well as a big part of the recommendations we made and to see that happening really does gives me some cause for optimism.”

JCPS has more than 101,000 students and roughly 6,400 teachers at 155 schools, making it the 27th largest public school system in the United States. It has an annual budget of more than $1.2 billion.

DOCUMENT | Read the full JCPS audit

On Monday, Hargens will provide the Jefferson County Board of Education with an update on each of the audit's 45 findings and where the district's response stands.

The audit's recommendations were spread across six categories including overall governance, policies, the district's internal audit process and information technology systems. The review was conducted at the school board's request at a cost of roughly $125,000.

Hargens said Friday all but seven of the 45 findings have been addressed and completed.

Officials are still working on revising the district's outdated cell phone procedures, reviewing the salaried employee use of leave time, updating information technology policies and procedures and providing better training on information technology security, conducting a review of the district's supply warehouse and addressing a minimal textbook budget.

In addition, JCPS is awaiting the results of a comprehensive salary review – something Edelen said the district needed after comparisons of peer districts found that central office employees in JCPS were receiving higher salaries than those in comparable school districts.

Auditors found that JCPS pays central office employees a “significantly higher average salary,” while spending the smallest share of its budget on teaching students.

The district is paying Virginia-based Management Advisory Group International $192,000 to conduct the comprehensive salary review. This is the first time since 1979 that such a review has taken place in JCPS.

According to the district's request for proposal, the group will review salaried and hourly job classifications, recommend appropriate pay grades within salary schedules and come up with a plan "that includes a phased transition for suggested pay grade adjustments.”

“It's important to know where we stand in terms of salaries,” Hargens said, adding that adjustments may be needed, but has stopped short of saying that she would be willing to reduce a position's salary if the review calls for it.

Hargens says she expects to have the results of the comprehensive salary review “within a few months.” She said employees were still taking surveys.

The only finding that has not yet been addressed is Edelen's suggestion that JCPS pursue a change in state law that would allow it to add two “at large” members to its school board.

As part of the audit, Edelen said he felt the seven-member board is not big enough, and that its members lack the expertise needed to deal with complex issues such as the system's budget.

Hargens said any recommendations for a statutory change would need to be part of a board-approved legislative agenda and the board did not pursue that this year.

Edelen said he is happy that JCPS officials placed a priority on addressing the audit's findings.

“Make no mistake, Jefferson County Public Schools didn't become this large bureaucracy overnight,” he said. “This is the result of a generation of growth and it's going to take a while to turn it around, but I'm pleased with the signs we've seen so far.”

Hargens said her office has been in regular contact with Edelen's office throughout the past year. 

"I think we have some good momentum, I feel that we are on the cusp of taking the district to the next level,' she said.

Meanwhile, Hargens and Edelen will be part of a panel discussion at Gheens Academy at 8 a.m. on May 21 – the one year anniversary of the audit – about the progress JCPS has made since it was released. The panel is part of Greater Louisville Inc.'s “Issues and Influencers” series.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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