New management of school trust fund the right move

In education management, there aren't many easy wins but the Fayette County school board will get a shot at one shortly.

District staff has recommended that the board establish an education foundation committee to work with the Bluegrass Community Foundation to oversee the seven trust funds established to benefit the district.

Issues with the trust funds arose in the report by the office of the state auditor earlier this year that outlined deep dysfunction within the district's central office.

Auditors found that central office staff was using money from one of them, established for projects that "would be beneficial to the students," to make loans to staff for education, certifications and to prevent financial hardship during professional development travel.

It's certainly possible to make the case that all of those purposes could benefit students, but the real problem was that no one had ever made arguments for those or other uses publicly.

The staff is proposing to set up a committee to include a school board member, a principal, the superintendent, an Equity Council member and three at-large community residents to establish policies for how the funds will be used and recommend specific grants.

The Community Foundation, which manages $72 million in charitable assets, would manage the money.

The trust funds amount to about $1.5 million — a relatively minor figure compared to the district's $442 million annual budget. So, improving how they're managed and used is not likely to transform the district.

But creating a transparent process that engages people outside the central office will be an important step toward restoring public faith in the district's management.