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Melrose School Superintendent Cyndy Taymore has hired a Burlington accounting firm to conduct an audit of the school district’s financial operations, grant management, and hiring practices.
Sullivan, Rogers & Co. will review the district’s internal controls and policies, and a report is due to the School Committee by the end of October. Taymore, who succeeded retiring superintendent Joseph F. Casey on July 1, said she does not suspect any financial wrongdoing.
“This is not a financial audit,” she said. “We’re not looking for missing money or anything like that. . . . We’re trying to tighten [procedures] up.”
In a memo to School Committee members, Taymore questioned several financial and human resources practices, including these:
■ The $25 million school budget figure does not include $2 million in grant money for programs, including special education and professional development. The real cost of education is $27 million, she noted.
“When you do grants, it can sometimes get confusing, as to what you can charge and what you can’t,” Taymore said. “It could require clearing up a misunderstanding of the grant.”
Administrators did not review purchase orders to make sure spending is not redundant or duplicated, Taymore found in her review. There are no written human resource protocols. School staff are not aware of their building or department budget, and the superintendent does not have daily access to the budget to monitor line items or payroll spending.
“They are just things I have discovered in the daily operation of the school district,” Taymore said. “Things come to your attention and you need to address them.”
The audit comes as Taymore prepares to hire the district’s first director of finance and administrative affairs. At Thursday’s School Committee meeting, Taymore expects to recommend a candidate for the job. The board meets at 7 p.m. in the aldermen’s chamber at City Hall.
The new director will replace the school business manager’s position, currently held by Greg Zammuto, who is leaving the district to join the SEEM Collaborative, a regional special education school based at the Beebe School.
The audit and the hiring of a new finance director are among Taymore’s major initiatives since taking over the 3,780-student school district. After Casey retired, six school administrators and principals, including the curriculum director and high school principal Dan Richards, either took new positions in other communities or also retired. Most jobs have been filled either by permanent hires or interim appointments.
Taymore also has launched the 100-Day Plan, a broad initiative to strengthen curriculum, develop a teacher evaluation system, make better use of data to evaluate student performance, and improve communication in the district.
Mayor Robert J. Dolan gave Taymore high marks for swiftly settling into the job.
“She is one of the most blunt, direct leaders I’ve ever come across,” he said. “It is refreshing.”
Dolan, who is also a member of the School Committee, said he supports Taymore’s decision to conduct an audit. “She’s very hands-on,” he said. “She wants to construct, along with the new financial director, the systems she wants to run the school district. I think an audit is pretty standard when a new administrator takes over.”
Dolan said the school department’s finances are in good standing. “We have two audits a year and we have never had a problem,” he said. “Greg Zammuto has done a great job as business manager. But part of the superintendent’s job is to monitor finances.”
School Committee chairwoman Kristen Thorp said she also supports the financial review. “I think everyone on the committee thinks it’s a very good idea,” she said. “We’re getting a new business manager. We have a new superintendent. It seems the perfect time to look at the budget and accounting system and see if we want to change the way we keep track of things.”