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Langley School Board 'not functioning well': Auditor General

The long-awaited auditor general’s report on the operations of the Langley School Board, previously reported on by The Tyee, recognizes the board has made some necessary changes to its financial controls since it found itself mired in $13.5 million in debt earlier this year. But there are some key points that still need to change — mainly their inability to get along.

“Although the board is performing some of its governance responsibilities and meeting weekly, we found that the board is not functioning well, nor modelling a positive ‘tone at the top, ’”writes Auditor General John Doyle in the report, which was released Friday, September 10. “ The lack of good working relationships amongst the board trustees poses a significant risk to the overall success and future financial health of the district.”

The report details an atmosphere of mistrust at the school board, which has split the board into two groups: one perceived as unquestioning of senior management’s directives; the other as having an agenda to remove district Superintendent Cheryle Beaumont, who signed off on the flawed amended budget that resulted in the board’s current deficit.

The auditor general also highlighted errors with the board’s decentralized system, where each school principal is responsible for sticking to their school’s individual budget and deciding how they will allocate government monies to their school. The report cites a lack of financial knowledge on behalf of the principals and management’s use of Excel spreadsheets, which Doyle writes are “prone to human error,” as being risks to the district.

In all the report offered nine recommendations for change in the board’s and senior management’s practices, ranging from better communication and reporting between trustees and senior management, to undergoing long-term strategic planning. The auditor general has already signed on to audit the board for at least the next three years.

Board Vice-Chair Wendy Johnson previously told the Tyee that she felt the report, which was submitted to the board this summer, would “vindicate the community.” In an interview with News1130, Langley Teachers Association (LTA) Vice President Gail Chaddock-Costello confirmed Johnson’s prediction.

"Chaddock-Costello says they were correct to say the board had a lack of internal control. She explains one of the most important findings in the report is stating the district's strategic plan does not have a longer term focus. ‘And its education-related goals are not linked to financial resource planning,’” reports News 1130.

The board signed off on the recommendations in a letter attached to the report, but the responsibility for the board’s future budgets will fall to the board’s new secretary treasurer, J. David Green, whose appointment to the position was also announced on Friday. Green, who has served as the secretary treasurer with the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District since August 2002, will be the first permanent secretary treasurer since Wayne Braun left in December 2009.

Katie Hyslop writes about education for The Tyee.

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