State audit: Ineligible Clay County teachers paid $31,000+ in state teacher scholarship funding

Action News Jax at 10:00 PM

Action News Jax Investigates has obtained an operations audit of the Clay County School District completed byFlorida's auditor general.

The 31-page report included the district’s direct responses to the state’s findings and recommendations.

In one of the 13 listed findings, the report states the district disbursed a total of $31,200 in ‘"Florida Best and Brightest Scholarship Program" awards to 22 prekindergarten teachers. Auditors found those teachers did not meet the statutory definition of a “classroom teacher,” and were not eligible for the awards.

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According to Florida statutes, "classroom teachers" are defined as "staff members assigned the professional activity of instructing students in courses in classroom situations, including basic instruction, exceptional student education, career education, and adult education, including substitute teachers."

Clay County School District responded in part:

‘‘Districts must determine eligibility of employees, according to statute, for the scholarship program. Clay County School District had found the cited teachers qualify as Exceptional Education Teachers who instruct pre-kindergarten students assigned to special pre-kindergarten programs.”

Auditors concluded the district may have put student information at risk with information technology  user access privileges. It states, “Some unnecessary IT user access privileges existed that increased the risk that unauthorized disclosure of sensitive personal information of students may occur.”

Now -- the district is working on a policy to track that access.

The district responded in part, “The District will develop a written process to track and review user access” and “current processes, procedures, and systems do not allow for quick and temp permission changes...”

Ross Solberg tells Action News Jax investigator Ryan Nelson he’s been a parent in the district for about five years, and he’s more than satisfied with his experiences in that time.

In his view, this finding was unsettling, but it’s not unique to the district.

“Yes, it is a concern,” said Solberg. “But I think that’s a society across the board concern.”

The report also included a letter from Superintendent Addison G. Davis addressed to Sherrill F. Norman, a certified public account in the Office of the Auditor General.

Davis writes in part:

“Please accept the following written statements of explanation concerning the preliminary and tentative audit findings and recommendations dated December 11, 2018. Please note that corrective measures have been taken to incorporate processes to prevent a repeat of these comments.”

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