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Superintendent updates MGT audit

WINDSOR – When the MGT audit was released earlier this year, those responsible for that document made numerous recommendations of how Bertie County Schools could make better use of their funding.

Seven months later, Bertie educational leaders remain in discussion over those recommendations.

At last week’s Bertie Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart gave board members an update on where the system stood in regards to acting upon the audit’s findings.

“We have not done a good job of communicating on this issue,” Dr. Collins-Hart said. “But I will promise that we will do a better job, including posting the status of our actions on our website (www.bertieschools.com).”

To date, Dr. Collins-Hart said all the recommendations have been addressed.

“However, not every one has been resolved,” she noted. “Some remain works in progress.”

In her 10-page report, Dr. Collins-Hart paid special attention to six of the recommendations and referenced two other highly debated issues.

The audit, released in April, suggested the school system reduce by two the number of nursing positions in its Health Services Program. Addressing the health needs of the students, Dr. Collins-Hart said she had concluded that the nursing positions are needed, thus she will not implement the MGT auditors’ recommendation.

“This particular recommendation made by the auditors is not in the best interest of our students,” she stressed.

In regards to a cost-savings suggestion to eliminate the position of the school system’s assistant financial director, the Superintendent said that recommendation remains under review.

“The first question to pose is what makes a position, any position, necessary,” she said. “Decisions about positions will be based on the staffing necessary to provide support for our schools and ensure efficient operations of the district.”

Dr. Collins-Hart added that she continues to look at the system’s organizational structure and will make decisions regarding personnel in the spring of 2006 for implementation during the 2006-07 school year.

She said a review has been completed of a house constructed and owned by the school system. However, what to do with this property is yet to be determined.

“There are several options being discussed at this present time,” she said.

Included in those options is selling the house.

Another recommendation was for the Board of Education to develop a policy that addresses the level of unreserved fund balance to be maintained by the school system. Dr. Collins-Hart said she and the County Manager (Zee Lamb) will collaborate on this process and make recommendations to their respective boards.

In another recommendation that Dr. Collins-Hart found not to be in the best interest of students, she will not implement a suggestion to stagger the opening and closing times of the schools in order to allow for multiple bus routes, thus reducing transportation costs.

“This will not work in a rural county as large as Bertie,” Dr. Collins-Hart noted.

One of the recommendations carried out by system administrators has actually resulted in a financial burden.

In May, 10 vehicles owned by the school system were placed on the auction block, as recommended by the audit. It was also suggested by the auditors to end the lease-purchase agreement on the school system’s three newest vehicles and provide business mileage reimbursement for appropriate senior administrators.

“A number of our automobiles have been sold, creating a limited availability of vehicles for our staff to carry out their job responsibilities,” Dr. Collins-Hart said. “Our financial data is showing us that the availability of automobiles is more cost effective than paying travel reimbursement.”

She continued, “The 10 county vehicles auctioned in May has resulted in personnel being forced to use their own vehicles to perform their jobs. With the state-mandated reimbursement rate recently increased to 48 cents per mile due to rising fuel costs, the sale of these vehicles has resulted in an increased cost to the school system.”

With that in mind, Dr. Collins-Hart has decided it is not in the best interest of the school system to rid itself of the three new cars.

Meanwhile, two of the most controversial items n use of credit cards and cell phones n surrounding the audit have been addressed with new policies and procedures now in place.

Dr. Collins-Hart reported there are now only two procurement (credit) cards is use throughout the school system. Last month, the Board of Education approved one credit card issued to the Superintendent, as per her contract agreement. The other card is to be used solely for Board of Education members’ travel expenses and other appropriate and approved district needs, ones that adhere to travel regulations.

At last week’s meeting, board members finalized a new cell phone policy on the heels of eliminating a total of eight cell phones in July.

In a motion made by board member Gloria Lee and approved by majority vote, the new policy is as follows:

“Cell phones will be issued only to individuals who need them in order to carry out the functions in their jobs within the school system. The Superintendent will have the discretion over the issuance and monitoring of cell phones used by employees. The Superintendent will develop regulations to guide the use of cell phones.”