Anne Arundel Co. school system begins addressing problems identified in audit

Internal study looked at human resources practices

August 07, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County school system officials said last week that they have begun taking action to rectify some of the problems identified in an internal audit of human resources practices, including missing background checks and deficient compensation policies.

"I think we're back on track," said Superintendent Eric J. Smith.

At the request of school board members and school system administrators, auditors examined human resources practices between Nov. 1, 2002, and Oct. 31, 2004. The report describes documents missing from personnel files, staff members paid consultant fees before they were hired and others receiving credit for experience not relevant to their current positions.

Smith said last week that he did not agree with all of the audit's observations, but that the school system has developed an action plan during the past month to remedy immediate concerns, such as ensuring that all employees undergo criminal background checks. Fewer than half of 112 randomly selected employees' personnel files contained them, according to the report.

Many of the problems stem from policies that are silent on how to compensate employees not represented by union contracts, said Walter W. Federowicz, the school system's supervisor of internal audit. "Hopefully, this is going to drive the creation of policy to give a clear direction on how it is they should process the items that are identified in the report," he said.

Smith and school board members concurred.

"What we need to do as a board is create policy for better guidelines so we can make sure ... we still have the trust of the public to spend their dollars," said school board President Konrad M. Wayson.

But some board members said that despite criticism by the auditor, no policies were violated.

"If there is no policy, how can you say something is not fair?" said board member Michael G. Leahy. "That's why we have to address it right now as a board."

School system officials are drafting personnel guidelines as part of a long-term overhaul of school board policies. Areas concerning experience pay will be considered first.

The report stated that 11 new hires to the professional support and executive staff received five or more years of credit beyond their relevant experience.

Union contracts govern how experience is considered for most of the school system's employees. Teachers can transfer only up to 15 years of experience credits, even if they have spent more time in classrooms elsewhere, said Sheila M. Finlayson, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

Also, the report raised questions about the reorganization of senior staffers in 2003 to create a deputy superintendent position and four assistant superintendent positions.

Four of those employees received raises of more than 10 percent, up to almost $13,000. Smith said the changes were designed to create no additional cost for the system because of savings from eliminating other vacancies.

Materials from Smith dated Sept. 2, 2003, indicate the staffing changes would result in a $12,000 savings. A memo dated Sept. 10, 2003, lists the salary changes, although some board members said they did not recall receiving it.

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