Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 12, 2013

New Allegany has an architect, Cox gets nod to return

School board addresses state audit findings

CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Education met Tuesday to address a variety of topics, from the recent negative audit findings from Maryland’s Office of Legislative Audits to the selection of an architect for the new Allegany High School to County Commission President Mike McKay’s desire to dissolve his seat on the board.

In the wake of a critical audit report that cited the board for 19 findings, the board agreed to begin a series of open work sessions to address the recommendations in an effort to disspell what they see are the misconceptions surrounding the report.

“The audit is something that all school systems are dealing with. Many school systems have a similar number of findings with many of the same issues,” said Randy Bittinger, chief business officer for the board.

The audit cited the board for a loss of $888,000 due to poorly negotiated bus driver contracts, a $4 million loss in food service and  failure to bill Medicaid reimbursable services back to February 2011. Claims filed after 12 months can be denied.

“The way the report reads does not give the full picture. The audit was simply a way to make negative findings. They told us up front that no positive findings will be reported. We were also given no standards that we could follow,” said Bittinger.

“I think we need to have open meetings to address each finding. There are misconceptions out there,” said Ed Root, the board’s president.

Other findings from the audit include:

 • The school system, which offers employees a self-insured health care plan administered through Carefirst, paid the provider $16.4 million plus a $1 million  administrative fee without verifying the billing.

• Payments of $1.3 million were made to a physical and occupational therapy provider without proper documentation, such as time sheets and student names.

• The school system did not adequately solicit competitive bids, specifically to two architectural and engineering contracts, totalling $130,000.

• The school system failed to get independent confirmation during procurement and vendor payment functions.

“The best way is to go through the findings one by one to see what is correct and what’s not and where we need to make changes,” said board member Mike Llewellyn.

The board has taken issue with several of the findings, while accepting other recommendations as ways to make improvements in there procedures.

In other news from the meeting, the board selected the architectural firm Grimm and Parker of Calverton to design the new Allegany High School. Grimm and Parker were the architects for other local projects including Mountain Ridge High School and the libraries in Frostburg and Lonaconing.

The board has given the nod to David Cox to return for another four-year term as the superintendent of schools. The terms of his contract will have to be negotiated by June 30.

“We are happy to have him and feel he has done a good job,” said Llewellyn.

A discussion was held on McKay’s recent request to have his ex-officio, or non-voting, seat on the board be discontinued.

McKay was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I wish he was here. Having a member of the county is important. We work on funding together,” said Llewellyn.

“Having someone from the county here in person is a good thing,” said board member Laurie Marchini.

McKay’s main reason for eliminating his seat is the strain on his schedule that attending each meeting has caused.

The board agreed to send a letter to the county stating they do not support the elimination of McKay’s seat.

Root abstained from the vote, stating he could understand how it might be difficult for McKay to have to be present at every meeting. He said that some other type of arrangement with the county to have someone present when needed could be reached.

Mountain Ridge High School, Cresaptown and Beall elementary schools were honored for being in the top 10 percent statewide in academic performance with at least 40 percent of its student population being economically disadvantaged. Their test scores and reductions in gaps between student subgroups have given them a strand one rating, which is the highest rank in the Maryland education system.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com

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