By Dana Schallheim
Board of Education, District 5
The Fiscal Year 2020 Board of Education budget, appropriated by the Anne Arundel County Council on June 14 and adopted by the AACPS Board of Education on June 19, provides funding for 140 new classroom teachers, 50 new special education positions, and 35 new school-based mental health positions. The budget also set to include roughly $306,000 to fund an internal audit.
Spurred by the new hybrid elected/appointed board, but championed predominantly by elected members, Board of Education District 7 representative Michelle Corkadel authored two amendments to establish an audit as part of our budget process back in February. The first seeks to establish a scope of work and request for proposal (RFP) and was unanimously passed by the board. The second earmarks $250,000 to complete the audit and was passed by a vote of 6-2.
The topic of an audit began when we were candidates. Almost daily, constituents shared concerns about the sheer size of the AACPS central offices. With that observation, combined with the feeling that available resources should be directed to meet school needs at the school level, the idea of an audit resonated with voters.
One concern I heard often from voters was the rate of growth within the central offices compared to classroom teaching positions. According to the AACPS FY18 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, also known as the CAFR, “other professional staff” and “central office administrators” grew 27.1% and 23.8% respectively between the 2008-2009 school year to the 2017-2018 school year, compared with student enrollment and “teaching staff,” which grew 7.1% and 12.4% respectively over the period. The May 2018 Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Staff Reporting System Specifications and Procedures Manual defines “other professional staff” as “other non-instructional, non-managerial professional personnel,” which includes accountants, engineers, lawyers and various HR staff.
Now that funding has been appropriated, the next step will be to hire one temporary staff person to work collaboratively with the board’s internal auditor and the board to establish the audit’s scope and develop an RFP to solicit bids from outside entities to carry out the work.
My vision is for a thorough desk audit of all central office departments and staff with a goal of identifying redundancies and waste. Inevitably, every superintendent develops departments and programs to accomplish his or her vision and goals for the school system. These programs are often vital to the ongoing success of our schools; however, I believe that there may be some overlap between departments. Additionally, I am hopeful that this audit will identify and help illuminate inefficiencies.
In addition to the hiring of a transportation consultant to make sure we are efficiently using our available resources, a central office desk audit will hopefully answer voters’ longstanding questions about central office bloat and inefficiency, allowing the board to make more informed and fiscally responsible budget decisions going forward.
As always, your feedback is appreciated. I can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great July!