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DeKalb County School Board limits hiring, spending authority of superintendent

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DeKalb County School Board limits hiring, spending authority of superintendent

Cheryl Watson-Harris

By Sara Amis, contributor

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the Tucker Observer, a site owned by Decaturish. To read the story, click here

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County School Board at its Oct. 18 meeting took steps to limit the power of Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris.

The Board approved changes to policies governing contracts and purchases which reduce the amount of money that can be spent at the Superintendent’s discretion without board approval. Previous policy required amounts over $100,000 to be approved by the board; the new policy requires approval for amounts over $50,000.

In addition, new hires for director level and above must also be approved by the board. Previously, approval was only required for executive level hires.

Board member Marshall Orson proposed tabling the motion until the next board meeting in order to allow for public comment, and to substitute the word “consultant” for “independent contractor” in order to be more in line with other districts’ policies. Both motions failed.

“We have something that other districts don’t. That is a material weakness in internal control. And when we have that, we need to develop compensatory controls,” said Board member Anna Hill.

Hill on Oct. 19 followed up with Tucker Observer to provide some additional context about her comments.

“In our meeting last night, I reminded my colleagues on the Board/the Superintendent/the public that [the DeKalb County School District] has had audit findings of ‘material weakness in internal control and significant deficiencies in internal control’ for many years,” Hill said. “These are technical terms for audit findings (terms of art used by CPAs/accountants/auditors) and stated in the audits issued by [the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts].”

Both Orson and Board member Allyson Gevertz said that they did not feel this policy change would do much to address internal control problems. Gevertz said that she would like to see more from the Audit Committee.

Vice Chair Diijon DaCosta said that the Audit Committee had met twice. Board member Deirdre Pierce said that the Audit Committee needed a clearer definition of what it is actually supposed to do.

The board is scrutinizing hiring practices in the district, especially the practice of hiring temporary staff.

To read the full story on the Tucker Observer, click here.

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