Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 23 October 2009 00:00
The Glen Cove Board of Education met this week at Deasy Elementary School to a crowd of parents and teachers wanting answers about the findings in the New York State Comptroller’s audit report, which was made public two weeks ago. The meeting began with a presentation to the board about the report by assistant superintendent for Business Kevin Wurtz. Two boad members, Richard Tortorici and David Huggins, were absent.
“Even though they didn’t find anything, they still made some recommendations on how to improve,” Mr. Wurtz said about the results. He went on to explain each of the five major recommendations made in the report, giving background on why the school board may not have been in compliance with the policies, but stating that they intend to comply from now on.
On the first point, it was stated that three members of the board did not get the required financial training within the one-year timeframe upon being elected. One of the board members in question, Richard Tortorici, was not present to state his case as to why that did not happen, however, Mr. Wurtz said that they “will comply” with the state requirement.
The second issue pertained to reimbursements for not opting to be a part of the district’s health insurance plan to employees who, the state says, were not eligible for these benefits. According to Mr. Wurtz, these were “exempt” employees who the school believed had the same option as everyone else. They have now been grandfathered in to receive that entitlement.
Another finding in the report was that the school did not adhere to the competitive pricing policy for several purchases.
“They went through hundreds of purchase orders and found that we didn’t comply on several occasions,” Mr. Wurtz said. He said that in these instances, the items needed – such as software updates - were purchased from the only available source, and it was not possible to get competitive quotes. He said they will update the policy.
While performing the audit, four examiners and one supervisor were on site for a period of four months, from November 2008 to March 2009. Overall, Mr. Wurtz said he thought the findings were “pretty good, considering the amount of time they spent here.”
Despite this assertion, several community members said they were not pleased that they had to read about the findings in a newspaper article before hearing about it from the board.
“Why did this not come up at that last meeting?” one woman asked. “It’s like you’re hiding something…we should have been told about this first and not have to read about it in the paper.”
“Our intention was not to hide anything,” board president Ida McQuair responded. “We knew Kevin would be presenting the audit report at this meeting, and we took the opportunity to talk about it tonight.”
Superintendent Dr. Laurence Aronstein stressed that they had no idea when the final report would be released to the media, or what they would choose to write about. “Even the best report on Long Island is going to have at least three recommendations, and the media picks over the reports to find the negatives,” he said.
Board vice president Gail Nedbor-Gross said, “We appreciate what you did for the district, Kevin. We have some things to work on, but we appreciate your work.”
Not everyone felt that the school board was at fault for not disclosing the findings sooner. Glen Howard said that he was very familiar with the auditing process, and said that from what he could tell from Mr. Wurtz’s presentation, “this was done right.”
During the superintendent’s report, Dr. Aronstein discussed the work being done on the high school track, and said he would try to get the subcontractor to come and speak at a meeting to better answer any questions and concerns from the public. Several people noted their concerns about the track appearing as two different colors and the length of time taken to complete the work.
“We’re not being negative, just concerned, since this project cost you guys a lot of money,” one parent said to the board.
The issue of emergency vehicles accessibility to the football field was once again raised at Monday night’s meeting.
“For the third time on Saturday, there was a problem getting an ambulance on the track…the paramedics ran out onto the field instead,” the Glen Cove resident said. “I’m cringing over there! What if a player has a broken neck and they have to run over there with a stretcher?”
In this case, the injury was not that serious, but several people voiced their concerns over the potential for a more tragic accident in the future if this issue is not taken care of promptly.
Dr. Aronstein responded that there were about four inches to spare and so the ambulance could have gotten through the gate. He said they are still pricing options and seeking the best permanent solution, but that this process needs to be accelerated.
Trustee Joel Sunshine pointed out that there should be an interim solution for all future games; Dr. Aronstein responded that he will be happy to entertain ideas.
“Get out there right now and cut down the gate!” one person said.
“Why is there not a solution?” another woman asked. “Don’t talk about it, just take care of it, just do it.”
President McQuair brought up the fact that, two weeks ago they asked for an ambulance to be present, and it has been there. “Apparently that is not good enough; we’ll take care of it,” she said.