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DeKalb County Schools responding to issues identified in financial risk assessment

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DeKalb County Schools responding to issues identified in financial risk assessment

DeKalb County Schools Director of Audits and Compliance Joel Thibodeaux.

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb Board of Education’s audit committee met on May 10 to hear an update on the district’s response to a financial risk assessment completed by Plante Moran.

The assessment ranked information technology (IT), procurement, staffing, payroll processing, and financial reporting as the highest to lowest risk areas. 

DeKalb County Schools Director of Audits and Compliance Joel Thibodeaux offered an overview of the district’s mitigation efforts since July 2022, including conducting internal audits to address risks within each division. 

Chief Information Officer Monika Davis described how her department addressed deficiencies in disaster recovery, business continuity, cybersecurity, and technology integration.

Davis said that staff was involved in planning disaster recovery and revision of cybersecurity strategies, along with receiving additional training. Staff training included tabletop exercises to ensure that responses to potential problems go smoothly. 

Byron Schueneman, who became DCSD’s new Chief Financial Officer in April, said that his department has worked to improve the district’s procurement process.

The district uses GovSpend’s software and database to manage requests for proposals (RFPs) and has held “how to do business” seminars with potential vendors.

Contract management and purchasing workflow have been integrated into Munis, the district’s enterprise resource planning software. Additional safeguards against check duplication have been implemented.

Board member Anna Hill asked about the process of determining sole-source vendors and awarding contracts to them.  “Surely, it’s not just one person who would make that decision,” Hill said.

Schueneman said that he could provide more details later but confirmed that the district will have a rigorous process for determining the uniqueness of a source and seek competitive bids wherever possible. 

Audit Committee Chair Deirdre Pierce asked about advertising RFPs in media other than the DeKalb Champion, the district’s legal organ. Schueneman said they hadn’t partially because of the advertising expense in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Interim human resources director Tekshia Ward-Smith described the district’s staff retention efforts but cautioned that the district was not just competing against other school districts but against a shortage of teachers overall.

“Fewer people are entering the teaching profession,” said Ward-Smith. DCSD has attempted to recruit from the local community and participate in on-the-job teacher certification programs.

Board members Pierce and Hill praised the district’s efforts so far.

“This meeting has been vigorous, impactful, and in-depth. This is some really good work,” Pierce said.

Hill said that problems with district finances were part of why she ran for office.

“It’s so important to know how far this district has come. This is really incredible; the district has gotten better and better every year,” Hill said.

“This is really nerdy, but I get really excited reading the audit reports,” Hill added.

Thibodeaux responded, “I hope that this restores some confidence that we are addressing these problems consistently and methodically.”

The audit committee’s next meeting will be a review of the state audit of the district on Wednesday, Aug. 9. 

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