During the November 29, 2021 Lake Wales Charter School Board of Trustees Work Session and Board Meeting the Schools attorney Robin Gibson shared a legal counsel update. Mr. Gibson advised the board that a new legal matter had arisen. Each Board member was presented with a Memorandum from the Law Offices of A.M. Stuckey with offices in Lake Wales. Gibson shared the Memorandum appeared to be about an FTE audit that would affect Lake Wales High School. Mr. Gibson went on to state that he would reach out to the lawyer that presented the Memorandum directly and accommodate them as much as possible.
Danny Gill the Trustee and Chair asked Alricky Smith the CFO of the Lake Wales Charter School System if there was any validity to the $248,000 audit. Mr. Smith stated that the document appeared to be the scope of an audit that is called the Florida Education Program Audit that’s typically completed by the Florida Auditor General.
Mr. Smith shared that the audit is part of ongoing engagement. Since Lake Wales Charter Schools is part of the Polk County School district the actual engagement was with the Polk County School Board. One of the schools identified in the audit was Lake Wales High School and was subject to an audit review.
Based on the information provided Mr. Smith indicated there were some preliminary findings for the amount $248,000. Mr. Gill asked Mr. Smith if he was involved or part of the audit. Mr. Smith replied, “No Sir, I’m sorry one part of it”. Mr. Smith shared he had some discussions about the audit with Lake Wales High School’s Principal Donna Dunson back in September. Mr. Smith went on to share that he was never engaged with the auditor and was not part of the exit conference. Mr. Gill shared there was a lot of information that needed to be reviewed and thanked Mr. Smith for answering his questions.
The Daily Ridge researched the audit claims and it appears that Lake Wales High Schools 2019-2020 school year was part of the Audit. The notice of audit was provided to the school March 9, 2021 which was to begin April 19, 2021. The audit revealed eight deficiencies the school did not meet according to state standards. Based on the states audit findings these eight deficiencies could result in the school receiving a $248,317.41 adjustment that could be levied against annual funding the school receives from the state.
The Daily Ridge reached out to Mr. Smith for further clarification regarding the Audit.
Was this potential adjustment resolved with the state?
The Polk County School Board FTE Audit Report for the 2019-20 FY(AG-424) has not been issues as a final report by the Florida Auditor General’s Office. The Lake Wales High School will have a chance to respond to their findings once the report has been released to the Florida Department of Education(FDOE).
Will the adjustment be applied or will the adjustment be dropped?
Once the findings are resolved, FDOE will instruct the Polk County School Board on how to collect any funding due back to the State, if that is the final outcome.
When were you made aware of the FTE audit?
In the Spring of 2021, the school’s Principal first noted that the school was engaged in an ongoing FTE audit during a Lake Wales Charter Schools leadership meeting. Later the school noted the audit was still ongoing during the Lake Wales Charter Schools Board’s Annual Retreat.
When did you learn that a potential adjustment of $248,317.41 being levied against the school?
The first draft of the Preliminary and Tentative findings were present to me on August 10, 2021.
Is there a policy or protocol in place that would notify the Chair or the Board of Trustees of audits or possible levies?
Lake Wales Charter Schools does not currently have a policy on notifying the Board of audit engagements. However, the CFO has always noted during a board meeting that the Financial Statements audit was ongoing.
If there is a policy or protocol did Principal Dunson follow the policy?
No, policy was violated, but the school leaders has been put on notice that all external reviews or audits must be communicated with the Superintendent and CFO prior to engagement.
Based on the School Boards Agenda and Minutes posted to their website it does not appear that the School Board addressed the findings of the Audit nor addressed the items contained within the Memorandum that was presented that could result in the school losing $248,317.41 in funding.
You can watch the video here LWCS Board of Trustees Work Session and Board Meeting – YouTube
Audit Conversation takes place during first 17 minutes of meeting.