Some points of schools' audit in place

Six recommendations used, more being studied

`I'm ... very, very encouraged'

Administrators finishing review of 123 suggestions

Howard County

May 10, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Howard school system leaders have implemented a number of recommendations from a consultant's independent audit of the school district completed last year, and plan to offer a more comprehensive assessment of the report's recommendations in September.

Top administrators have almost completed their review of the audit, school officials said. Superintendent John R. O'Rourke will tell the county Board of Education in the fall which of the consultant's 123 recommendations are practical and feasible to carry out, which have been done and which will not see the light of day.

Last night, board members heard from key officials in O'Rourke's office who were assigned to assess segments of the $250,000 Management and Performance Review over the past six months.

The recommendations in the performance review were broken down into five key areas: student performance, human resources management, leadership, financial stability and community support.

O'Rourke's staff has determined that 22 of the 123 items will be disregarded, 39 will be implemented as recommended, 27 will be implemented with some modification, and five will be studied further.

Six of the recommendations have been put in place in the school system, officials said.

"I'm really very, very encouraged by what we've been able to accomplish in a rather short period of time," O'Rourke said.

Consultants suggested that the human resources department revise its recruiting efforts in several ways, including shortening the interview process, to be more competitive with other area systems.

That recommendation was fully implemented in February.

The district also hired a chief business/financial officer, in line with an audit recommendation.

On the other hand, staff members agreed that it was not cost-effective to conduct follow-up studies of Howard alumni one and five years after graduation, despite the consultants' recommendation to do so.

The performance audit -- completed last fall -- was a joint effort of the school system and the county government. It was intended to evaluate all aspects of the system from salaries and hiring practices to building operations and students' academic performance.

Consultants hired by WCL Enterprises of Houston visited Howard schools and administrative offices for 10 months and presented officials with a 2-inch-thick report, punctuated by the 123 recommendations.

The report was largely favorable, but it said that Howard schools lacked clear vision and leadership, needed to operate more as "one school system" instead of a "system of individual schools" and needed to involve the community more, especially in critical areas.

Officials said that integrating the audit's suggestions into the fabric of the school system would be a continuing process.

"Implementation of the performance review will become an integral part of the school system's management process," said Chief Operating Officer Sydney L. Cousin. "It won't become routine, but this will become part of what we do here, a part of school system business."

Over the next several months -- until he makes his final report to the school board for its approval -- O'Rourke said his goal is to make sure that any changes or new efforts work for the betterment of the system's 46,000 children.

"What we're trying to do is to align our efforts around the instructional program of our students," he said.

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