Where Did The Money Go Part II
|To be very clear, this story is not about the actions
of a principal. This story is about a system that is broken yet seems
that no one is willing to fix it. This is an ongoing attempt to
understand how it is possible that the Loudon County Board Of Education
could be in such dire straights financially when in reality every year
except one, the Loudon County Commission has granted the BOE their
In 2006, Loudon County Director Of Schools Edward Headlee, made the decision not to rehire Loudon High principal, John Bartlett. Bartlett had been LHS's principal for two years. Publicly, Headlee was never very specific why he had decided not to rehire Bartlett. However in a public meeting Headlee stated, "he would consider the results of an audit currently being done on the school’s books." This suggested that there might be some improprieties with funds managed by the school.
Headlee's decision not to rehire Bartlett ignited a fire storm of support for Principal Bartlett from parents, students and community leaders who turned out in mass at a school board meeting to protest Headlee's decision. Ultimately, Headlee reversed his decision and rehired Mr. Bartlett. While Headlee never explained his initial decision, a look at the audit Headlee referred to might shed some light on his first decision.
Each year the BOE gives each of the nine schools a certain amount of money for what they call an "activity fund." An activity fund is essentially a pot of money that can be used for certain expenditures, many decided by the principal. The amount of money each school receives is mostly dependent on the school's enrollment. A school with an enrollment of 500 could expect to receive around $60,000.00 give or take a few thousand. The practice of allowing each school to spend this money with out going through the purchasing department is illegal. Each year, state auditors "write up" Loudon County for the violation, each year county officials vow to end the practice yet each year the violation continues.
Apparently, prior to Headlee's decision not to rehire Bartlett, a special state audit of Loudon High School's finances had been ordered for the previous nine months. The audit found 18 violations or possible violations.
Let me say again, this is not about the actions of one principal but about a system that does not work yet it is never changed. Principal John Bartlett may have said it best in one of his responses to state auditors, "This has been standard operating procedure for Loudon High School for twenty years."
One can only assume that these practices have also been standard operating procedure for the other eight schools in the system. The practice of channeling tens of thousands of dollars through each school is an accident waiting to happen. Principals and teachers and school staff are there to provide education. They shouldn't be required to also act as finance directors.