Good evening! Several stakeholders have asked me what led up to the action at the Board meeting on September 27, 2021, in which: 1) Superintendent Dr. Benjamin P. Edmondson was placed on paid administrative leave; 2) Sean McNatt, who served as Interim Superintendent during Dr. Edmonson’s medical leave this past summer, was re-appointed as Interim Superintendent; and 3) the law firm of Clark Hill was retained to do an independent investigation into the District’s business and financial practices. My response is as follows.
- The District’s auditor identified 14 serious Business/Financial Office problems in the audit last year, which audit was itself delayed by three months. The District’s auditor recently informed the Board President and Financial Consultant that 12 of those 14 problems remain unresolved going into this year’s audit.
- The District’s auditor advised me as Board President that the District would not survive in the long-term, and then corrected himself, and said as well as the short-term, unless significant changes were made in the way the District’s business and financial operations were conducted.
- When Dr. Edmonson was asked what he was doing to address the problems in the District’s business and financial operations, he did not provide any meaningful or concrete plan. Furthermore, when Dr Edmondson informed the Board that Jewell Clair, Interim Finance Director, had submitted her resignation, he also stated he had no plans to fill the position. As a result, in early August the Board agreed to hire Dixon Consulting to assist with the District’s business and finance operations, particularly in light of the upcoming audit, as well as to retain the services of Rehmann, through the District’s legal counsel, to conduct a forensic audit into matters of concern.
- At the Board meeting on September 27th, Mike Dixon of Dixon Consulting, who has over 40 years of advising public school districts in financial trouble, publicly advised the Board that after working in the District for several weeks, he found that the District’s business and finance practices were in such a poor, non-functioning state, that he recommended that the Board direct an independent investigation into those practices. That morning, Mr. Dixon notified the Finance Committee Chair and the Board President of these concerns, and that he would be bringing the recommendation to the Board at the meeting on September 27th.
- Accordingly, I asked John Gierak of Clark Hill to prepare an appropriate Board resolution for me to direct such an independent investigation, and he did so, which I shared with the Board’s Finance Committee Chair, Susan Evitt. Ms. Evitts made that motion at the Board meeting, and it passed by a vote of 4 to 3. Mr. Gierak has provided an update to the Board on the investigation, which will be shared.
These have not been easy times for members of the Board, including the Board Finance Committee, given the concerns shared above, along with all of the other challenges facing our school district. I recognize that it has been difficult for all of us who work on behalf of, and care so much for, our children and their schools.
I ask that all of us – Board members, staff, parents and community members – to continue to focus our efforts on providing our students with the best educational opportunities possible. In our schools, it is business as usual.
However, it cannot continue to be business as usual in our business and finance operations, given the problems identified by both our auditor and our financial consultant. I believe we now have experienced professionals who are diligently working to identify and remedy those problems. We look forward in the not too distant future when their work will be completed, and we can be assured of a properly functioning Business Office.
The Board will continue to partner with its staff and parents in providing the best we can for our children. Thank you for continued support of the Romulus Community Schools!