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State auditors visit DePue School

DEPUE – DePue finally has some plausible answers on why their Student Improvement Grant (SIG) was terminated by the Illinois State Board of Education in November.

The state board auditors have determined the district supposedly misappropriated $332,904 for three different costs.

The items include the income to junior high teachers for extended days, the cost for elementary teachers in the master’s degree program through Concordia University, and the purchase of a copy machine, which was used in the SIG office at the school.

The results of the audit have left Superintendent Randy Otto bewildered, since the items were all previously approved in budgets sent to the state.

“I was kind of at a loss when I was done with them because I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from,” Otto said. “I don’t understand how all of a sudden these costs from Year 1 were unapproved when they’ve gone through this whole process two years already.”

The district was award the $4.7 million SIG grant in August 2010. The monies were dispersed over the course of three years. DePue was one of five schools in the state to received the grant.

On Wednesday, Otto reminded his board the findings are only preliminary. They have yet to be reviewed by the program directors at the state board and be taken to the Illinois Association Regional Superintendents of Schools.

“Until all that is done, we may not get a final notification on what exactly they think we should pay back,” Otto said.

Otto defended each accusation. He said auditors claim the copy machine wasn’t budgeted, although he can show proof it was in the budget all three years.  He said the junior high teachers are getting together documentation on their pay for extended days. Also, he believes the master’s degree program should be treated like any other professional development the state has allowed elementary school teachers to participate in with high school teachers.

Board member Nickole Barto suggested once final results come back, the board talk with school attorney Walter Zukowski.

“I’d be curious what our attorney has to say about the situation,” she said. “They said we could use (the items), but now they’re saying we can’t ... It’s a state-approved budget and line item things that the money was being used for.”

Otto anticipates a final notification from the state board sometime around May.

In other business, the board:

• Approved changes to the physical education curriculum. At last month’s meeting, P.E. teacher Josh Johnson asked the board to consider adding a strength and conditioning course for students participating in school sports.

•  Approved eighth grade graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. and high school graduation ceremony at 8 p.m. on May 17.

• Set a board re-organizational meeting for 6 p.m. April 24.

• Approved the 2013-14 public school calendar.

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