Parents, students, taxpayers in Parshall deserve better

The Parshall School Board and its superintendent appear to have miserably failed Government 101.

After a recent audit performed by the North Dakota Auditor General’s office at the request of a citizen petition of the district, a total of 17 findings were found by the auditors.

All of the findings are outrageous. But six of the findings are separated from the rest on the second page of the audit: – More than $3 million in unreconciled difference in account balances.

– Missing documentation for more than half a million dollars in purchases.

– No documentation for capital assets including depreciation were found.

– Health insurance paid for two individuals who were not current employees.

– Missing board approvals for more than $800,000 worth of expenditures.

– The incorrect reporting of children for federal funding.

What makes this whole situation so egregious is these are basic breakdowns that fall at the feet of the Parshall School Board and its superintendent.

We want to make one thing very clear. The board is an elected body that works for the voters. The superintendent of the school district is an employee of the taxpayers and reports to the board. Any time the superintendent presents a document to the board, prepared by the business manager or any district employee, they are vouching for the accuracy of that report.

When the board votes to affirm any of those documents – bills to be paid – or any other item presented to them by the superintendent, it must be voting with the best interest of its constituents in mind. But how can you vote with your constituents’ best interest in mind when the information you’ve received may be wrong?

A decision was made to have one business manager responsible for all the primary accounting functions, leaving a serious lack of segregation of duties in the accounting department for the district. It created a void when it applies to the ever-important audit trail.

Audit trails prevent things such as “the school district paying health insurance benefits for two individuals that were not current employees. The audit was unable to determine the total amount of overpayments as supporting documentation was not maintained by the district.” (Page 39 of Schedule of Audit Findings)

All the findings are shocking but possibly the worst was when the Parshall School District applied for the Impact Aid grant through the federal government. Federal grants routinely increase due to the number of students in the district. Parshall underreported its own student population by 19 students, reporting only 159 students when in fact 178 students attended the school district. They also filled out the tables in the grant incorrectly.

Not one member of the school board or its superintendent caught the discrepancy when reviewing the grant application before it was approved to be sent to the federal government. In other words, the supporting documentation did not match. It was a reoccurring theme throughout the 61-page audit report.

In Parshall, this is not leadership. The residents and students deserve better.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today