Accounting firm to present annual school district audit report Monday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 24, 2021

SALISBURY — Anderson, Smith and Wike, the accounting firm hired to vet Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ financials, will report its findings during the district board’s Monday meeting.

The meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. at Wallace Educational Forum and will be streamed at Masks are required to attend in person with no exceptions.

A memo from RSS Chief Financial Officer Carol Herndon notes the annual audit returned “clean.” But it included a finding that its actual expenditures for the previous year exceeded the final budget amendment presented to the board in June.

Herndon’s memo says the Finance Department provided the best estimate of expenditures and the total was “likely impacted by unusual late June 2021 activity related to one-time bonuses paid to every district employee and pandemic funding deadlines and commitments.”

The Board of Education approved one-time bonuses paid out to every employee in June. Hourly classified staff such as bus drivers and nutrition workers were awarded a 6.5% bonus and certified faculty were given $1,000 bonuses.

The memo says the Finance Department will monitor expenditures to “ensure estimates are appropriately conservative before taking the final budget amendment to the Board of Education.”

The contents of the audit report will be presented during the meeting by firm partner Mike Wike.

Other items in Monday’s agenda include:

• RSS Chief Student Services Officer April Kuhn will present the latest draft memorandum of understanding for the school justice partnership between the district, local law enforcement and the judiciary.

The draft is a 12-page document outlines policy for not initiating law enforcement involvement in disciplinary actions for students when not necessary. The memo says student misconduct that does not involve public safety can be best addressed through “classroom, in-school, family and community strategies.”

• The district will review annual accountability reports from the state. The report will note the unusual circumstances of the previous year’s testing data, that metrics were down and how the information will be used.

A presentation lead by Superintendent Tony Watlington will discuss using the data to identify learning gaps and note positive points that include the district’s graduation rate not dropping, a small reduction to the district’s dropout rate and a small reduction in the gap between RSS and state test performance.

• Chief Academic Officer Jason Gardner will speak about the district’s literacy metric. Gardner is also scheduled to discuss the draft literacy goal to improve performance of all third-grade students by 12% and reduce the achievement gap between white and Black students by 10%.

Gardner will speak to the board about the science of reading, an instructional practice based on a breadth of research and a set of methods advocated for by State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.

• Kuhn will also present the district’s regular COVID-19 update, with a recommendation that mask requirements continue until indicators are at low levels, including a local positivity rate less than 5% and new cases less than 20.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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