State hires independent auditor for Barry ISD re-look
Superintendent Richard Franklin informed the BISD board that the State of Michigan has hired an independent auditing firm to re-audit the Barry ISD books.
With less than one week's notice, Barry Intermediate School District officials opened their doors on Dec. 9 to a new auditing team hired by the State of Michigan that arrived with no introduction – or explanation – from state officials.
“We were informed last week,” BISD Superintendent Richard Franklin told board members at their regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 10. “We were contacted by Maner Costerisan and informed that a team of auditors would be arriving at the Barry ISD to perform an audit on Monday and they requested to have information ready and available for them.”
Franklin said he was aware something was in the works after being informed on Dec. 4 that a Request for Proposal had been issued by the state for an independent auditor to re-audit the BISD. No contact, however, was apparently ever received by local officials from the state.
On Mon. Dec 9, four auditors from the Lansing-based firm Maner Costerisan arrived at the Barry ISD. Before the auditors left, they informed Franklin that they would be returning on Wednesday to continue their audit. During their time at the Barry ISD Franklin said they interviewed several employees and had various requests for information.
Upon learning about the new and unannounced audit, Barry ISD legal representative Margaret Hackett of the Thrun Law Firm sent a formal letter to the state stating that the Barry ISD is considering this a new audit and that these auditors will start a completely new audit.
Franklin said during his interview with the auditors, they confirmed that this is an entirely new audit and they are not trying to hunt down any additional information from the past audit.
BISD board member Deb Hatfield asked Franklin who would be paying for this new audit and Franklin responded that it would be the state covering the complete cost.
Overall, Franklin said that he and the rest of the staff at the Barry ISD found these new auditors to be very professional and easy to work with.
All of this comes following Barry ISD’s request for a formal review of the audit performed by a team of five auditors from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in April. The team looked at five different grant programs offered by the Barry ISD. The programs audited were the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), Great Start Collaborative (GSC), Raise to the Top, IDEA, and Early Childhood. Following their audit, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) recommended the removal of the Great Start Readiness Program, from Barry ISD’s administrative and financial control.
Hatfield and other members of the Barry ISD board said they welcome this new audit and expressed their eagerness and desire to see this new audit once it is complete.
The Barry ISD has added a new position due to the growth it has seen in the Early Childhood Special Education program for preschool-aged children. Barry ISD determined that it needed additional support in the classroom. Regarding the growth of the program, Franklin said: “it is growing in leaps and bounds.”
The board also voted unanimously to approve the hire of Britney Curtis at a Paraprofessional for the classroom. Curtis recently moved back to Michigan and has previously worked at the Barry ISD but ended her employment when she moved away from Michigan.
Dawn Weeks said, “At the beginning of the school year, there were three students enrolled in the morning class and five students enrolled in the afternoon class. The classes have now grown to nearly ten students in each class.” She added that the state does not require a paraprofessional for a classroom until there are twelve students, but she believes this hire would be in the interest of student safety.
In other business the board:
- Approved the payment of General Fund Expenditures, $232,873.43; Special Fund Expenditures, $534,412.80, and Trust Fund Expenditures, $92.29 for November 2019.
- Received a report from Franklin highlighting that Jennifer Baird, with help from others, has been working to develop a computer-based attendance system for the Barry ISD. Currently, Barry ISD teachers take manual attendance in physical attendance books. The board will be deciding whether or not to adopt this new attendance procedure at next month’s meeting. Moving to computer-based attendance, Franklin noted will improve the Barry ISD’s attendance tracking by having teachers’ record attendance twice a day in addition to giving office staff the ability access to attendance information at any time.
- Heard assistant superintendent Cindy Larsen respond to a question from board member Robert Becker about the new Barry ISD School bus that has been ordered. The new school bus should arrive in the spring. Larsen noted that the reason the school bus will take so long to arrive is that it is being custom-built to serve the needs of Barry ISD students..
- Approved the Emergency Operations Plan required by the state. The plan is in draft form with a few details still needing to be added, Franklin noted, but the majority of the information has been added. This plan primarily affects Barry ISD’s West Learning Center though, because students take classes in other locations in other schools, all schools are required to have their own EOP. EOPs are not posted on Barry ISD’s website for the safety of staff and students. The Barry ISD EOP is required to be submitted to the state before the first of the year.
- Was informed that the Barry ISD PTO held a T-Shirt fundraiser with proceeds going to support BISD classes. In total, the PTO sold 85 pieces of spirit ware. The PTO raised enough money to purchase 50 T-Shirts for students.
- Heard plans that the Barry ISD will begin its Pura Vida Bracelet fundraiser. These bracelets are a growing trend with youth, and, in addition to the money raised that supports Barry ISD, the company was founded to support local artisans. Pura Vida, meaning “pure life,” is a common expression in Costa Rica. Through growing support, more than 800 artisans in Costa Rica, El Salvador, India, and more, can earn a steady income and have a positive work environment. For information on purchasing bracelets contact the Barry ISD at (269) 945-4192.
- Encouraged anyone interested in getting involved with the Barry ISD PTO to attend the group's next meeting at 5 p.m. on Jan 15 in the West Learning Center, 535 W Woodlawn Ave, Hastings, MI.