leadership of this district have demonstrated they are serious
about addressing the problems. I would not have said that three
years ago," Wagner said on Jan. 15 at a press conference
following an unusual joint release by his office and the school
district of the final report about the latest in a series of
audit investigations going back to autumn, 1998.
said the district "accepts the auditor's conclusions and agrees
to implement the recommendations that have not already been
implemented." He cited several policy changes recently enacted
or before the board for approval in the near future as evidence
of a "commitment to good stewardship" of taxpayer money and
announced that assistant superintendent Donald Fantine was
placed on 'administrative leave' and, when that ends on Jan. 24,
will be reassigned to be an assistant principal. Fantine's
salary will be reduced at the end of this academic year
to the level appropriate for that "entry-level administrative
position," Harter said. Fantine's contract expires on June
30, 2003. It entitles him to an administrative position until
then, but salary is determined annually.
report charged Fantine, whom it identified only by position, of
failing "to provide adequate administrative oversight of school
facilities' operation" and of lying to auditors and the school
board concerning his offering a Mount Pleasant High School
option of resigning rather than facing criminal charges in
connection with a teacher's allocation that the employee had
denied any wrongdoing, saying that the situation occurred last
summer when he was involved in handling other matters while the
district was undergoing a change to the new Harter
during July and August, 2001, the investigation faulted the
district on how it administered arrangements by which Team
Delaware, a private nonprofit organization to use swimming pools
at P.S. du Pont Intermediate and Concord High Schools. It found
there was a lack of control over computers and other electronic
equipment leading to unreported thefts and 'lost' assets as well
as improper disposition -- mostly simply dumping them into
storage areas -- of surplus items. Also criticized were
allocation of state custodial units and special-education
complete report and the district's official response are
available through links at the end of this article.)
addition to Wagner's favorable reaction to the district's
response, the press conference include resident Jack Wells
declaration that the district administration "has faced this
challenge in a far different manner from the previous
administration." Wells was identified as the person whose
complaint to the attorney general's office was the primary
impetus for the audit investigation.
endorsements were particularly significant in light of the
timing of the report's release, school board president Nancy
Doorey noted. The board at its Jan. 17 meeting is expected to
approve holding a referendum in April to seek an increase in the
ceiling on the district's tax rate for operations.
after the conference that the referendum decision "is still on
the agenda" for the board meeting.
Still to be determined is the
resolution of the swimming pool situation. The district
requested, and Wagner's office agreed to grant, time to
calculate fees based on a new policy governing use of district
facilities. The audit found that Team Delaware was $45,910 in
arrears on payments based on the original agreement but, in line
with a state policy encouraging community use of school
facilities, possibly could have been entitled to use the pools
for considerably less.
Following is the text of the key
portion of Harter's statement at the press conference:
"District staff has been
anticipating the final report for several months, and we have
made many changes in response to the recommendations. These
changes have included revising or changing policies, altering
management practices, and taking personnel action.
"Although we deeply regret that the
audit was necessary, with the implementation of the
recommendations of this audit, the Brandywine School District
has substantially improved its stewardship of the public's
resources and trust.
"Throughout this process, we have
tried to maintain an atmosphere of openness and honesty. Now
that the final report has been received, the key messages we are
trying to convey are straightforward:
"The District is relieved that the
review is complete and is satisfied that the investigation was
both thorough and fair.
"The District accepts the
conclusions of the audit and fully agrees to implement its
"The District has taken action to
correct past mistakes and institute policies and procedures that
will prevent problems in the future.
"Now that the difficult but
appropriate actions have been taken to fix problems, the
district will concentrate on preventing problems in the future
and continuing to build the community's trust."