Mark Porter’s Public Statement, in full:
November 27, 2015
“Recently there have been several news stories regarding the HOB daycare program that was initiated in 2014-2015. I would like to offer the following points of factual clarification and personal responsibility for this unfortunate situation. This is intended as a public communication and can/should be used by media representatives and the School Board in whole or in part as deemed appropriate.
During my time as Superintendent of the Monroe County Schools I have been guided by many principles of effective leadership, two of which relate directly to the daycare situation at Horace O’Bryant School. First, I have always tried to look forward and find solutions to problems, and there have been many, rather than looking back and seeking to affix blame. Though I do believe in the value of lessons learned from the past. Second, I have always tried to put the interests of the School District ahead of individuals in making decisions. Not that I am unaware of the personal impact of the decisions I make, but believe that my primary accountability is to the organization I serve. In addressing the daycare situation at Horace O’Bryant School both of these principles were followed, with questionable results, but not with the intent of a cover-up. I am responsible for the decisions that were made and the results that have followed.
From a factual/timeline perspective, let me offer the following brief summary;
- For the first time ever during the 2014-2015 school year an after school daycare program was offered at Horace O’Bryant School. The program started in August with modest enrollment (average of 62 students) and gradually grew over the course of the school year as one would expect. In December, after reviewing receipts for approximately three months of operation, the building principal noted a recorded financial deficit for the program. This was not in alignment with the actual participation and costs of the program and the situation was immediately reported to the MCSD Finance
- The Finance Department promptly initiated a thorough review of the receipt and deposit records of the daycare program and identified multiple failures to follow proper case management procedures, both with regard to receipting of funds received and the transfer of funds. In conjunction with the failure to follow these proper cash management procedures the Finance Department identified a discrepancy of approximately $20,000 between recorded receipts and recorded deposits, but were unable to identify any individualized fault or direct responsibility.
- Given the significance of these findings an external auditing firm was engaged to “dig deeper” into the situation. In March, 2015 the auditing firm of King & Walker initiated their review of records for the period July 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015, and released their final report to the Monroe County Schools on May 10, 2015. This report affirmed the accounting discrepancy of approximately $20,000 and stated in part; “Internal controls were deficient in the collection and deposit of daycare fees with regard to the segregation of functions among employees” and identifying several cash management procedures, receipting, collection and transfer, that were not being followed. The report also noted the 6 month delay in receiving funds from the Early Learning Coalition, which created several accounting challenges. A complete copy of the King & Walker report is included with this communication and further clarification of delayed receipt of ELC funds is on-going.
- The accounting discrepancy in the daycare program at Horace O’Bryant School was disclosed to the State Auditor when they initiated their audit of the Monroe County Schools for the 2014-2015 school year.
I was presented with the results of both the MCSD Finance Department inquiry and the audit conducted by King & Walker. The question to be answered was “what next?” Would it be appropriate and effective to refer this matter to the State Attorney’s Office and/or to law enforcement?
Following the initial MCSD Finance Department efforts all involved personnel had been re-trained in proper cash management procedures and the receipt, collection, transfer and deposit issues were resolved. The problem had been solved and the books were balanced. Based on the unproductive results of two financial inquiries (with regard to placing blame or fault) I was not confident a third inquiry by law enforcement or the State Attorney’s Office would bring forward a different result. It was my decision in May, 2015 to not refer this matter to the State Attorney’s Office at that time. A decision that has legitimately come into question by others and myself today. It should also be noted that within a couple of weeks after receiving the report from King & Walker the building principal did recommend non- renewal of the Daycare Manager.
With regard to lack of timely and complete communication to the School Board this again is an issue for which I am solely accountable. This was an act of omission, not an act of commission to effectuate a cover up. A purported cover up would never have entailed the amount of time and effort that was put in trying to identify and resolve the problem, nor would the issue have been willingly revealed to the State Auditor. I communicate a great deal of information to the School Board on a weekly basis and should have included an update to the School Board in May, 2015 when both reports were available. I failed to do so and have personally apologized to each School Board member for this omission on my part. School Board members are 100% correct, they should not receive news about the Monroe County Schools through the media.
I regret that anything I have done or have failed to do has reflected poorly on the Monroe County Schools. I feel that many needed and necessary improvements have been made over the past 3 ½ years. Together, the School Board, Superintendent, district/building leadership and most importantly our hard-working employees have overcome many significant challenges to restore the public trust and confidence in the Monroe County Schools. I will do my best to see that this pattern of improvement continues as we still have a long way to go and I will learn from incidents such as this that occur along the way to improve my ability to effectively lead the Monroe County Schools.
Mark T. Porter Superintendent of Schools