Changes at the School Board Association

The break out of information from the Iowa Association of School Boards earlier this spring caused a knot in their operations. For a time they were without an executive director, a chief financial officer, and a legal counsel or in other words, their entire executive team. The result of the media and legislative attention has caused the organization to look closely at their operational procedures and make changes accordingly. Here are a number of changes that the association has implemented recently to ensure tighter oversight:

Staffing and Board Member Changes

  • Former Executive Director: Executive Director Maxine Kilcrease was fired after a brief period of time on suspension. She was put on paid leave March 11th pending an investigation into allegations that she raised her annual salary without the board’s knowledge or consent, and then fired on March 25th.
  • Temporary Executive Director: Harry Heiligenthal, Leadership Development Director on staff with the IASB, served briefly as interim director.
  • Interim Executive Director: A new Executive Director was hired on May 1. Veronica Stalker will serve as interim Director from May 1 to December 31, 2010. She has been involved in education in Iowa since 1976, included time spent on school boards and working with IASB programs, and will help in the transition to the appointment of a new executive director at some point in the future.
  • Board Member Changes: Jack Hill, former Board president, retired from the Board. He was involved in the contract signing of former ED Kilcrease’s salary increase.

Policy and Control Changes

  • Transferring Money within the Association: Some consternation with the organization stemmed from internal transfers of money that were approved by only one person. A new policy says that all transfers to or from a fund under IASB control must be approved by two of the following three people: executive director, board president, and board treasurer.
  • Creation of an Audit Committee: One of the allegations at the IASB is that the former ED prevented access to the Board for the outside auditing company. To combat that, a committee has been setup consisting of 5 members of the Board that will work to monitor and oversee IASB’s financial process, policies, and controls. They will meet quarterly with external auditors.
  • Travel Policy: Travel has been an issue within the IASB as well, as the former ED was given advice from the previous ED to take advantage of trips on the IASB’s dime. The new, like the old, policy outlines what events staff and board members will be reimbursed for and how much will be reimbursed. A Travel Expense Report is required and travel must be related to their position, duties, and responsibilities. The only change made is that spouses and other family members are not considered eligible for reimbursement by the IASB.
  • Credit Card Policy: A source of headlines among the problems at the IASB was the vacation paid for with an IASB credit card by former CFO Kevin Schick. The new policy removes the ability of Board members to use the credit card and specifies that IASB employees shall not use the credit card to purchase personal items.
  • Staff Salaries: Previous IASB policy was that the ED was given a lump sum for staff salary allotment and it was up to the ED to divvy that up among the employees. Board approval was given only for the lump sum. The former ED reportedly increased the salaries of several staff members upon her arrival, while firing at least one other employee for lack of money in the budget. New policy now requires the Board to set and approve salaries for all staff.

IASB Membership and Programs

  • Membership Dues: School boards pay a membership fee to the IASB every year to receive access to a number of services valuable to school boards. These services include legal consultation, financing advice and education, workshops, presentations, etc. The Board of Directors voted to decrease membership dues by 5% to help schools meet their budgets easier.
  • Repayment of Federal Grant Double Drawdown: One of the IASB’s programs, Skills Iowa, receives federal grants on a regular basis. An accounting error on the part of a new staff member led to a double draw-down of federal funds in the amount of nearly $500,000. After reviewing the issue, the IASB Board has determined it was a true mistake and the money was repaid to the federal government on April 14, 2010.

It appears that the IASB is working its way through the problems the association has faced recently and is making appropriate changes. Staff who contributed to these problems are gone and the association is in the process of finding replacements. Policies that were unacceptable or unclear have been changed. While more work needs to be done, the association is at least on a path towards recovery.