Plotting a new course for Dallas ISD was never going to be a quick or easy thing. It's a huge bureaucracy and one that's laden with problems, some that are common to all large, diverse urban school districts, some that are DISD-specific, a legacy of administrations passed. So Superintendent MIke MIles deserved -- and still deserves -- some slack. His cabinet-level salaries have raised eyebrows, and he got off on a shaky foot with teachers, but if his decisions ultimately lead to an improvement in student performance, as he claims, then those are just growing pains.
Still, you know the administration has stepped in it big time when DISD sends out a late-night press release promising a full response to an internal audit and taking pains to point out that the audit really wasn't supposed to be released quite yet.
The press release became clearer when the Morning News published this story last night, which breaks down the audit report.
Some of the findings are picayune. Certain high-level positions were never publicly posted in violation of district procedures, and 14 of 18 employees did not follow the district's clock-in procedures. What gives greater cause for concern is the apparent disregard with which "senior management" -- the audit, per the News, does not identify who this might be -- treats established financial rules.
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Two employees weren't offered moving expenses but were given a combined $8,131 anyways. Others were reimbursed for house-hunting trips, temporary lodging after the date of hire, and a questionable car rental. One $4,082 invoice for moving expenses was apparently fraudulent.
The district's main defense at this point is that the release of the audit was premature. Trustee Eric Cowan, who chairs the board's audit committee, said in the press release that it's a draft and that its release now "violates standard audit procedures."
"A cursory review indicates that there were no serious infractions," Miles is quoted in the release as saying. "If any errors were made during the process of hiring senior staff during the summer, I take full responsibility as they were made out of a sense of urgency to get ready for the school year."
That may be so, but basic financial controls may get in the way of swift, decisive action, but they are there for a reason. (Insert reference to disgraced former superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez here.) And it's not as if Miles didn't know the rules. According to the audit, he was reminded of them frequently by district staff and, according to the News, by former chief of staff Alan King.