‘I’m pretty much done with them’

DEPUE — DePue School District is responsible for paying back around $80,000 to cover the misappropriated use of funds from the SIG grant, which was terminated by the state board last year.

The cost for the district originally stood around $713,000, but after the state reviewed their audit on the SIG grant usage, the amount dropped to around $80,000.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Randy Otto said the costs come from the district using monies from the grant on iPads for eighth-graders and included junior high teachers getting paid extra day stipends. The grant was meant to only be used on educational purposes in the high school.

Board member Nickole Barto confirmed the stipends to junior high teachers had originally been approved in a budget sent to the state during the time of the SIG grant. She expressed frustrations with the state making the school board feel like they were “rotten people” for misappropriating the funds.

“That’s how they make you feel. Like we stole the money and did horrible things with it. We used it for the students,” she said.

As previously reported in the Bureau County Republican, the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) has gotten involved with the district’s dispute to the state board. Last month, Otto discussed how part of the costs the state is demanding falls on the shoulders of the IARSS because the state argued their sheets submitted to document RtI coaches in DePue was not informative enough.

On Wednesday, Otto said the IARSS is currently disputing with the state board that their time sheets are not as bad as the state board is saying.

Otto expressed his frustrations with how the state board has handled this deal, which has gone on more than a year. He commented on their lack of listening to the district and how they keep bringing up new arguments to justify reasons of the misappropriated funds.

“They keep bringing up something new on how they have to justify this money rather than admitting they screwed up,” he said. “That’s why I said I’m pretty much done with them.”

Otto will travel to Springfield on Jan. 9 for a final meeting with the state board.

“This will be the final meeting where we find out how we pay back the $80,000,” he said.

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