By B. A. Weinberg
February 08, 2010
The letter from Francis C. Natkong published February 5, 2010, starts out: "Hang on to your hats, here I go again!" Yes, here she goes again spouting off allegations without benefit of the facts.
I am the Chief Executive Officer of Hydaburg City School District. In spite of multiple explanations to Ms. Natkong, she still apparently thinks that a school district CEO is somehow inferior to a superintendent and invariably costs more. The cost of my compensation per day of work is the same as the cost per day of work of the former superintendent. The only significant difference between a superintendent and a CEO is the nature of the contract, which, in Hydaburg's case, provides substantial advantages to the School Board. The Board can terminate the contract at any time, for any reason or no reason, without fear of expenses for a hearing, an attorney, or a contract buy-out.
As the CEO of Hydaburg City School District, I am responsible for all of the functions of a superintendent under law and the District's policies. I have Alaska certification as a superintendent, as a K-12 principal, and as a secondary teacher. With almost 48 years experience as a teacher, school administrator, and consultant, I am confident that I provide value for the District's dollar.
I came to the District in April 2008, three months before the end of the fiscal year. I found five audit findings from FY 07 and one from FY 06, and no discernable efforts had been made to resolve those findings. Shortly after my arrival, I received a letter from the Department of Education and Early Development describing numerous errors and discrepancies in the District's past budgets and financial statements and threatening to reject future budgets and financial statements (which could mean the withholding of state funding) if the budgets and financial statements were not substantially cleaned up.
Because of an audit finding related to the lack of documentation to support the District's Impact Aid application, the US Department of Education conducted a review of three years of Impact Aid applications. As a result, the School District had to repay over $130,000 in past Impact Aid payments because of improper counting of students eligible under the Impact Aid program.
By authorization of the School Board, Tammy Stromberg, CPA, was brought in to resolve the audit findings and to establish and oversee internal controls and accounting procedures consistent with state and federal requirements. Shortly after her arrival, she discovered over $10,000 in health insurance overpayments that she was able to recoup from the insurance company. She established procedures to eliminate late fees and penalties, of which at least $10,000 had been assessed over a two-year period by the credit card company, the IRS, and the Alaska Division of Retirement and Benefits.
In spite of Ms. Natkong's insinuations, the cost of governance and central administration (the School Board, Superintendent's Office, and Business Office) has decreased substantially since Tammy Stromberg and I have been working for the Hydaburg City School District. The cost in FY 08 was $261,384, in FY 09 it was $242,863, and the budgeted cost for FY 10 is $192,926. By this kind of careful financial management, the District was able to recover from a negative unreserved fund balance of $17,458 in FY 08 to post a positive unreserved fund balance of $141,722 in FY 09 in spite of the Impact Aid repayment in excess of $130,000.
The current staff, administration, and School Board are committed to providing the best possible education for Hydaburg's children in an efficient and cost-effective manner. When Ms. Natkong criticizes Ms. Stromberg or me, that's one thing; when she impugns the motives of the School Board, she insults not only the Board members but also the Hydaburg citizens who elected them. She has not yet learned that insulting people is not the way to get them to do what she wants.
I hope we won't have to "hold onto our hats" for another ill-informed rant from Ms. Natkong any time soon. Although there are other misstatements in her letter that I won't bother to refute, I will extend to her an invitation. If she wants to report facts about the School District, we have ample public documents that we will make available to her so that she can avoid making allegations through the media that are so laughably misinformed.
B. A. Weinberg, CEO
Received February 06, 2009 - Published February 08, 2010
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