Request for PTA Financials Grows Murkier

Thanks to some input from some eagle-eyed readers, I updated the post Wardynski Want Control of PTAs yesterday to point out that the Financial Procedures Document that Ms. McCaulley shared Thursday morning as justification for the district’s requesting PTAs’ financial records was actually published on June 10, 2010.

If one assumes that Ms. McCaulley’s interpretation (supposing that it is her interpretation and not the interpretation dreamt up for her by the district’s public relations and political advisor David Driscoll) of the Financial Procedures document is correct (it isn’t, but let’s play for a moment), then Huntsville City Schools and the PTAs that serve Huntsville City Schools have been in non-compliance for at least the past five years.

PTA Financials Have Not Been Requested By ALSDE

I know that our state department of education moves slowly, but even they don’t move that slowly. If the ALSDE actually had a problem with the PTAs of Huntsville managing their own books without supervision from Dr. Wardynski, Mr. Taylor and Ms. McCaulley, I’m fairly certain that they would have informed us of this before now.

You’ll note, of course, that the district has not released a memo from Dr. Bice stating that the district needs to improve their “compliance and transparency” in support of this request.

You’ll note, of course, that for the past four years when the district’s books have been audited by Mercer And Associates the “auditor’s report expresses an unqualified opinion on the financial statements of the Huntsville City Board of Education.” (An unqualified opinion means that the district is following all of the internal rule and regulations for financial management.)

Did Mercer and Associates miss the fact that our PTAs weren’t reporting their financial statements to the Board of Education for the past four years? If so, perhaps it’s time we found a new certified public accountant to audit the district’s books?

You’ll note, of course, that when the district received district-wide accreditation from AdvancedEd in 2012 the external review team recommended district-wide accreditation for five years. This recommendation was based, so we were told at the time, on an extensive examination of all of the district’s procedures.

In short, this lack of reporting on the part of the PTAs hasn’t been an issue in Huntsville City Schools for at least five years. So why is it an issue now?

The Financial Procedures Document is Eight Years Old

Well as is often the case, once you begin looking into almost any justification that the district offers for anything that they want to do, the story just keeps getting worse.

You see, the state actually developed the section of the Financial Procedures Document that Ms. McCaulley was citing not in 2010, but rather on November 8, 2007. Dr. Joseph B. Morton, State Superintendent at that time, sent a memo to all the superintendents of the states school systems entitled, “Guidelines for Financial Operations of School-Related Organization.”

These guidelines were “not specifically endorsed by the Alabama Council of SACS/CASI [Accrediting Body] and the Alabama PTA, officials at both of these organizations have reviewed this document and have accepted the need to issue these guidelines.” Dr. Morton requested that districts implement these guidelines and comply with them by July 1, 2008.

Here’s a link and a copy of the memo:

Here are the guidelines that Dr. Morton sent out to the superintendents in 2007. As you review them, I’m sure you’ll see that they are remarkably similar to the Financial Procedures Document.

These guidelines are, in other words, basically the same guidelines that Ms. McCaulley offered as justification on Thursday for the district ordering PTAs to submit their financial records, with one small exception.

Only One Change In Request for PTA Financials

In 2007, the paragraph on the bottom of page 2 concerning Parent Organizations had the word “or” between the two conditions necessary for a PTA/PTO to be considered a “school activity.” In other words if either of the conditions are met (fiduciary control to principal or fundraising led by a school employee), then the PTA should be considered a “school activity” and should submit its records to the district.

In the 2010 version, the word or has been removed. Thus, a reasonable interpretation of the guideline could be that a PTA is not a “school activity” unless the PTA has taken both steps of relinquishing fiduciary control and having its fund raisers led by a school employee. The state has made the standard for evaluating an organization as a “school activity” harder not weaker since 2007.

If PTAs are “School Activities,” the District has been in Non-Compliance since July 1, 2008

In other words, if the state actually required that our PTAs submit their financial reports to the district on a monthly basis, then Huntsville City Schools has actually been in non-compliance since July 1, 2008, and no one has noticed until this week.

As hard as that is to believe, let’s play pretend again for a moment.

What if no one in the district noticed this requirement. After all, we’ve had a lot of turnover since 2008. Perhaps no one in those seven years remembered that we were supposed to submit this report? (And no one from ALSDE, none of the auditors, none of the accreditors noticed or bothered to say anything.)

Let your imagination run wild. It’s good for you, after all.

If only there had been someone serving in an official capacity for the district since 2008, or even better, if only one of the “officials” from the Alabama PTA were still around who could have given the district a high-sign that this was a requirement?

Oh yeah. There was someone who meets those standards, isn’t there?

Laurie McCaulley Served as Alabama PTA President from 2007-2009, and as Board Member from 2008

It all comes back the Board President Laurie McCaulley.

You’ll notice in Dr. Morton’s memo dated November 8, 2007 he claims that Alabama PTA “officials” reviewed these guidelines in 2007, and while they weren’t “endorsed” by the Alabama PTA officials, these officials did “review” and “accept” the guidelines.

Well, according to Ms. McCaulley’s LinkedIn resume, she served as “President, Alabama PTA” from “April 2007 – April 2009.”

And from 2006-2008 she served on the National PTA’s Board of Directors.

So when Dr. Morton asked for the Alabama PTA officials to review the request, it’s reasonable to assume that the President of Alabama PTA at least knew about this request.

And then October 2008, Ms. McCaulley began serving as a member of the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education. It is at least reasonable to assume that someone who had been the President of the State PTA might have been informed about ALSDE guidelines that affected the local PTAs, isn’t it?

And yet, for some reason despite her tacit “agreement” that the Guidelines for School Related Organizations were necessary, despite her knowledge that Dr. Morton had requested that districts be in full compliance with these guidelines by July 2008, despite the fact that she has been a member of the Huntsville City Schools board of education since 2008, she took seven years, seven years, to decide that these guidelines need to be followed by every PTA in the city.

Even though the guidelines clearly state that the determination of an organization’s status as a “school activity” must be done on a “case-by-case basis” for some reason, Ms. McCaulley and Dr. Wardynski have decided that the 2015-2016 is the time when PTAs must start following these guidelines that do not apply to them at all.

Why Now?

So again, why?

Why did it take Ms. McCaulley seven years to decide to follow regulations that do not apply?

Why did it take Dr. Wardynski four years to begin to push PTAs to follow regulations that clearly do not apply?

I think it is abundantly clear now that there are far more complex reasons driving this request than “compliance and transparency” as Ms. McCaulley claimed on August 13th.

Clearly she’s pushing this now for personal reasons probably related to her upcoming election.

Clearly Wardynski’s pushing this now because he wishes to gain control of our PTAs in an attempt to level PTA funding across the district.

As I’ve written three times now, every PTA in the district should respectfully decline this request.

Huntsville Council of PTAs Needs to Publicly Oppose This Request for PTA Financials

I’ve heard rumors that the Huntsville Council of PTAs has instructed PTAs to not submit their records at this time to allow the HCPTA to “study” the request.

I’m not sure how much more study they require, but it’s well past time for the HCPTA to lead the city’s PTAs in declining this request.

Well. Past. Time.

It is also well past time for Ms. McCaulley to move on to some other form of service. Eight years on the board of education is time enough for anyone.

 
Russell

“Children see magic because they look for it.”

–Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus’ childhood pal.

5 Comments

  1. In any event, per the published definition, Huntsville PTAs are not “school activities”. End of issue … Not applicable … Problem solved. No action required. (Out of curiosity, are all of the other School Districts in Alabama complying with this crazy document? I can’t imagine that this financial intrusion would set well in other parts of the State … it is certainly an invitation for bureaucratic mischief.)

  2. Hmmm….it seems to me there is someone else on the board that knows all the inner workings of the PTAs in HSV and would know a little something about this….hmm…let’s think about this….who else would be responsible for the non-compliance (if, indeed non-compliance existed)…who could it be…..

Comments are closed.