Auditors find over-report problem in Stanwood-Camano School District

STANWOOD — The Stanwood- Camano School District over-reported how many students were enrolled in basic education and career and technical programs and got paid about $93,750 more than it should during the 2014-15 school year, state auditors found.

The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction did not have necessary paperwork documenting special certification for all instructors, said Gary Platt, executive director of business services for the Stanwood-Camano School District. Those problems were fixed before the annual audit was completed and are not listed as “findings” in the document, which was released April 28. The Stanwood-Camano School District has had clean audits for 12 years, meaning state auditors have not found significant issues with how the district handles public money under state law and its own policies.

The paperwork problem was detailed in a management letter from the auditor’s office dated April 20. Auditors reviewed information from Sept. 1, 2014, through Aug. 31, 2015.

“They’re kind of diving down into the details in terms of the instructors that are teaching the classes because they have to have certain certifications,” Platt said. “There were issues with how the certifications of teachers were documented and how that was communicated between the school district and OSPI.”

All of the instructors had obtained necessary certifications, although in at least one case that had expired, officials said.

Districts report student enrollment to the state and, based on those numbers, receive money. Additional dollars are available based on how many students are enrolled in career and technical education programs. In Stanwood and Camano Island, those programs include hands-on training for students who want to be firefighters, chefs, mechanics, computer experts, veterinarians or physical therapists.

Last year, Stanwood-Camano received $264,090 from the state for career and technical education, according to the management letter. In order to qualify for money, courses must be state approved and instructors must have current certification.

Auditors found that nine out of 70 courses reported by the district as qualifying for funding did not meet all of the state’s criteria. The instructors did not have all of the necessary certifications on file with the state. As a result, the school district reported 56 students in courses that did not meet all requirements for funding. Auditors calculated that Stanwood-Camano got $35,840 more than the district should have for career and technical classes.

The district also reported 10 more students for basic education funding than should have been counted, according to the management letter. That resulted in the district getting $57,910 in extra funding.

“The district has corrected all issues identified during our audit,” according to the management letter. “We recommend the district establish and follow adequate internal controls and procedures to ensure all criteria are met to qualify for CTE enhanced enrollment funding.”

The auditor also suggested that the district work with the state to determine whether it must repay the money it received.

It’s unclear what will happen, Platt said. The certification reporting issue seems to have been “a mutual mistake” between the district and OSPI.

“We’ve created our own system so we don’t have to rely on the state to notify us of that,” he said. “Overall, we’re pretty happy (with the clean audit). I wish we would have caught this.”

Career and technical classes are popular in the Stanwood-Camano School District, with about 425 high school students enrolled in at least one course. That’s about a quarter of the district’s high school students, Platt said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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