Audit finds serious problems in Menifee school district; state might provide assistance

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Citing a lack of effectiveness and efficiency in Menifee County Schools, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has recommended that the state provide intensive management assistance to the district.

Two other districts — Robertson County and Fleming County — currently are designated as "state-assisted." Breathitt County's district is managed by the state.

If the state Board of Education approves Holliday's recommendation for Menifee County Schools, which had 1,056 students in 2013-14, the state's oversight would not be as extreme as its management of Breathitt County. The state school board meets Wednesday and could approve the designation then.

"State-assisted" means the Kentucky Department of Education will provide management assistance to develop and implement a plan to correct deficiencies found in a management audit this year, spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said.

The district has notified the state education department it won't contest Holliday's recommendation, Rod riguez said.

In a letter to state board chairman Roger Marcum on Nov. 13, Holliday said there "existed a significant lack of efficiency and effectiveness in governance and administration of the school district, particularly in the areas of planning, operational support, fiscal management, personnel administration, and instructional management."

"There is evidence that individuals have been hired for positions for which they do not possess the qualifications or certifications required," he said.

In addition, of 27 of the 29 people interviewed by Kentucky Department of Education officials "spoke to the clear divide in the perception of the staff, teachers, assistant principals and community between those who supported the recent superintendent and those who support actions of two specific members of the Menifee County Board of Education," Holliday said in the letter.

State education officials interviewed people characterized as new staff, who "shared their palpable fear that jobs are on the line, every day, based upon which side of the divide an employee is perceived to fall."

Interim Superintendent Benny Patrick, who assumed the post July 1, said he welcomed the help.

"The board chose to accept the assistance," he said.

Patrick said that he "inherited a tight budget for the year" and that he hoped the state could help with that.

Holliday said there were some positive aspects of the district. But he said that "a focus on student achievement has been interrupted" and that district leadership meetings with principals had stopped. He said there was a lack of monitoring the curriculum and a lack of knowledge about implementation of new academic standards.

Also, Holliday said, buildings aren't being maintained. Before school started this year, a large amount of tar entered Menifee Elementary School through the roof. Audit team members saw what appeared to be mold and experienced respiratory discomfort.

The district's only full-time mechanic does that work six hours a day and drives a bus for two hours. The district doesn't have a bus garage or bus shelter, just a 12-foot by 16-foot storage shed for tools. The buses can't be maintained safely, Holliday said.

The letter identified several financial management issues, including that no one interviewed could verify the tax rate used in the revenue included in the working budget.

"There is evidence that the board members do not understand the reports produced by the financial management system," the letter also said.

"State assistance is necessary to ensure the district has the processes in place to see that all of its students are career- and college-ready."

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