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DeKalb Schools leadership embraces audit of how district spent COVID-19 relief money

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DeKalb Schools leadership embraces audit of how district spent COVID-19 relief money

DeKalb County School Board Chair Vickie Turner. Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County School Board during its Nov. 14 meeting approved a contract for an audit of how the district spent its COVID-19 relief money.

The school board awarded an $877,000 contract to FORVIS, LLC for the audit. Joel Thibodeaux, Director of Internal Audits & Compliance at DeKalb County School District, told the district the report would be produced in late June. Investigative reporting by WSB-TV revealed DeKalb Schools gave $90 million in bonuses using COVID-19 relief money to 10,000 district employees.

Board members embraced the audit as a way to bring transparency and accountability to the district.

“I wanted to express I’m really glad this is happening,” board member Anna Hill said. 

Board member Dr. Joyce Morley said the board has long known the funds needed to be audited and that “they weren’t going where they were supposed to go.”

“I’m not going to be a part of covering anything up because I don’t wear an orange jumpsuit and I don’t smoke cigarettes,” Morley said. 

Following the meeting, board Chair Vickie Turner said she was “excited” to see the audit get underway.

“I’m glad we’re getting that audit done,” Turner said. “It’s been out there for a minute. Now we’re moving forward. We’re very excited about that. I think the whole board is.”

Turner praised the board’s work at the Nov. 14 meeting, an unusually efficient affair that ended with Turner cutting off Dr. Morley and adjourning the meeting before Dr. Morley could make an unspecified announcement.

“Let me call you,” Turner told Morley before ending the meeting.

Most of the board’s business was concluded before public comments began at 5:45 p.m. Turner said it’s a sign the board is focused on the important tasks in front of it and is no longer distracted by issues that aren’t relevant to educating children.

“We’re focusing on the work, and it’s necessary for the good of our children,” Turner said. 

In other business at the Nov. 14 meeting:

— The school board heard a report from Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley about getting a head start on the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. The district’s fiscal year begins on July 1.

“This means at times during this process there will be some hard decisions that need to be made as a result of difficult conversations if we mean to keep students first,” Dr. Tinsley said. 

Interim Chief Financial Officer Masana Mailliard gave a presentation on the district’s current financial situation. The district’s financial COVID-19 funds will likely run out at the end of Fiscal Year 2024. Costs are going up and, like many school districts, DeKalb County Schools struggles to find teachers and employees.

The district is looking for $20.6 million in savings, largely by cutting discretionary spending.

To see the presentation, click here.

— The board approved the district’s human resources report. Decaturish followed up with the district with additional questions about the HR numbers presented at this meeting. To read the report, click here.

— Dr. Tinsley removed a contract renewal for physical security services from the agenda. The contract was for video surveillance and intrusion detection. The renewal was to be awarded to Convergint Technologies, LLC and is worth $3.9 million. “This request to spend will support monitoring and support services for our existing systems, as well as a refresh of hardware components and software to support video storage and access for all security cameras,” the summary of the agenda item says. It’s not clear why Tinsley pulled this item.

— The school board approved a $144,000 contract with Dentons for lobbying services.

— The school board approved giving a contract worth $80,000 to Atlas Piers of Atlanta, Inc. for services supporting the school district’s facilities and maintenance department.

— The school board renewed a contract with Kidd & Associates Flooring and Contracting worth $300,000. The company will provide floor covering installation services to the district.

— The school board renewed a contract with A-Action Janitorial Services for $115,360. The company provides district-wide dust mop and microfiber towel services.

— The school board renewed a $2 million contract for pressure washing services with A-Action Janitorial Services, Autaco Development, LLC and Tribond, LLC.

— The school board renewed a contract with Southeastern Paper Group for $250,000. The contract is for custodial cleaning chemical supplies.

— The school board approved two contract awards for roof replacement services. The first was a contract worth $10.7 million and was awarded to Centennial Contractors Enterprises Inc. for roof replacement at Avondale Elementary School, Mary M. Bethune Middle School and Columbia Middle School. The second $8.9 million contract was awarded to SRS, Inc. for roof replacement services at Lithonia Middle School, Coralwood Diagnostic Center and the International Student Center.

— The school board awarded a $9 million contract to Goodwyn, Mills, Cawood LLC, for architectural and engineering services for the new Sequoyah High School and Middle School.

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