Firm starts auditing records of school
The Ready Springs Union School District should find out next month if inaccurate attendance record-keeping by its Vantage Point Charter School means less money for the district next school year.
A Sacramento-based accounting firm is auditing the charter school’s records in response to a report last winter by a state fiscal crisis-management team that found inaccuracies in the way records were kept for the school’s home-study program.
“We expect to have some discrepancies and are expecting a possible loss of revenue” as a result of the audit, Ready Springs Superintendent Merrill Grant said.
The Perry Smith accounting firm, which is retained by the Nevada County Office of Education, is looking at about 23 contracts Vantage Point signed with students for home schooling duties, Grant said.
The state pays Ready Springs about $5,000 for each of those students, which means the district could stand to lose about $115,000 in a worst-case scenario.
“This is the part we were dreading,” Grant said. “I’m expecting a loss, but it’s not about money. It’s about doing the audit right.”
Terry McAteer, county superintendent of schools, said “the district doesn’t have that kind of reserve” to handle the shortfall.
McAteer said it’s the second time in five years that he has called upon the accounting firm, which serves as an independent auditor, to inspect Ready Springs’ attendance records.
Though McAteer said “he’d never seen such flagrant violations” of attendance policy, he believes there’s no criminal intent by the charter school in filing inaccurate attendance records.
Of Ready Springs’ $3.2 million yearly budget, about $400,000 is spent on Vantage Point, Grant said.
As the auditors complete their work, Grant and members of the Ready Springs board of trustees have assembled a new charter council composed of two teachers; four parents; a non parent member of the Penn Valley community, from which Vantage Point draws the bulk of its students; and Grant.
Grant said he’s also working to name a new administrator to replace Tessa McGarr, Vantage Point’s founding director, who was stripped of her duties as the school’s leader in February, though she remains with the district.
Parents of Vantage Point students openly criticized Grant, trustees and McAteer during a raucous February meeting when Grant took over day-to-day operation of the school. A few parents have since pulled their children out of the school.
Despite the problems, Grant said he remains supportive of the charter school. The school has more than 120 students, including those enrolled in the home school program.
“The school does have a future, and we want to support it,” he said.
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