By Marcy Stamper
The Methow Valley School District recorded incorrect information for continuing-education credits for some teachers in the 2013-14 school year, according to state auditors.
The audit found that the school district had inaccurate information for 10 of 16 teachers whose files the auditors reviewed. The information is one factor in teachers’ placement on a salary schedule, along with their educational degrees and years of experience, according to Brandi Pritchard, audit manager for Team Wenatchee with the Washington State Auditor’s Office.
The errors resulted in improper placement on the schedule for four of the teachers, said Pritchard. The other six errors were small enough that they did not affect their placement.
The results were included in what’s called a management letter, which auditors use to report the least serious types of errors they find. It was part of a regular audit and results were provided to the district this summer.
The information on the salary schedule is used by the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as part of a complicated formula for funding OSPI provides to local districts.
Teachers are required to get a certain amount of continuing education to renew their teaching certificates, said Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable.
Accurately reporting credits can be very complex, because colleges and continuing education programs use different calendars, like quarters and semesters, and different units, like credit hours and clock hours, said Pritchard.
“It’s not uncommon to find small errors because there are so many pieces of paper,” she said.
“We know they were wrong, but don’t have results in terms of the dollar amount,” said Pritchard. In fact, the auditors are required to report all errors, even if only a fraction of a credit, so OSPI can determine if any adjustment is needed in district funding, she said.
The management letter says the fact that teachers were placed in the wrong tier on the payment schedule resulted in “an inappropriate amount of funding for certificated staff mix,” but does not give an amount or indicate whether the district got more or less money than it should have. There is no indication that the errors affected any paychecks.
The mistakes appeared to be a function of the volume of information, and not a lack of a system for recording it. The Methow Valley School District has a good understanding of the reporting requirement, said Pritchard.
The audit reflects the fact that the district has needed more staff and support at the district office to handle an increased load of staff changes, retirements and higher enrollment. Enrollment has increased by about 50 students over the past two years, said Venable. They have added a secretary at the district office to help handle the workload, he said.