John Hurt, a retired superintendent from Cumberland County, will serve as the interim superintendent of the Monticello Independent School District. He will assume his duties on January 2, when school resumes after the holiday break.
The Monticello Board of Education offered the position to Hurt during its monthly meeting on Monday, December 17. During the course of the meeting, however, the district voted to formally request state management and held preliminary discussions about merging with the Wayne County School District.
Board members then met with Hurt in closed session to discuss that matter. After returning to open session, it was announced that Hurt had informed the board that he wanted some time to consider the matter and would let Superintendent Gary Abbott know of his decision on December 21.
After some consideration, Hurt agreed to accept the position of interim superintendent.
The board meeting was a tense and emotional one for the board, as well as for faculty and staff members present.
After accepting a recommendation from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to become a “state assisted” district less than a month ago, during a special called meeting of the board on November 27, board members were faced with some grim news last week.
Gail Binder, with the KDE, provided board members with an update on the district’s current financial status, which reflects that the district does not have enough revenue to cover its expenditures. She informed the board that, with the financial woes the district is facing, there would not be enough money to cover the February payroll. Binder added that KDE team members had already made overtures to the state regarding this matter and that one alternative was state management.
Kay Kennedy, a member of the KDE team assigned to the Monticello Independent School District, addressed the board and emphasized that the district did not have the revenue to meet its expenditures and, by law, they cannot do that. She added that state management would allow the state to infuse cash into the situation that would allow them to meet the obligations for the school district for the current year.
The board voted to formally request state management and discussed the possibility of merging with the Wayne County School District. Superintendent Gary Abbott met with Wayne County Superintendent John Dalton the following day to discuss the merger of the two school districts.
During the regular board meeting, board members approved the 2012 audit report from Barry Daulton, CPA.
Daulton highlighted the findings from the 2012 audit report, noting that there was a significant drop in the cash fund balance this year. He added that he realized this situation was already being addressed.
He also noted another finding from this year’s audit regarding projects that had been paid for, such as the softball/baseball field, that weren’t bid or handled properly, according to guidelines of model procurement that Monticello Independent adopted. He added that school officials did not adhere to the guidelines of model procurement when handling these projects. According to Daulton, this process started prior to the current administration.
Other findings Daulton mentioned in his audit report included: 1) monthly bank reconciliations were not done in the past year; 2) there was a problem with health insurance information not being set up properly in the computer, and 3) there was a decrease in both the general fund and in the cash fund balance.
In addition, Daulton discussed the difficulties encountered in performing the audit. He noted that the main problem they encountered in performing the audit was that some of the documents they requested couldn’t be obtained because they had not been completed. He did point out that everything they asked for that was completed was provided.
Daulton was questioned about why these problems had not been discovered during previous audits. It was pointed out that the school had received clean audits in years past. Daulton explained that the problem was not discovered because it did not come up in their sampling last year, but it came up in their sampling this year. He noted that an auditor utilizes a statistical sampling method to pull the checks for an audit.
He emphasized the problem did not come up in the sample last year, however, it came up this year and one of the things that brought the issue to their attention was an invoice. He noted that something was scribbled out on the invoice and they had checked to see what it was. Daulton stated that the invoices did not look professional.
Daulton stated that if something does not show up in the sampling and is above materiality it is hard to catch in the audit.
The first step in the process of merging the Monticello Independent School District into the Wayne County School District took place on Tuesday, December 18, when Wayne County Superintendent John Dalton and Monticello Superintendent Gary Abbott met for a discussion about the situation.
The meeting between the two men came a day after the Monticello School Board voted to become state managed due to ongoing financial woes. Abbott told Dalton that the 2012-13 school year would be the last for the Monticello Independent School.
Dalton said that he has been in contact with Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Terry Holliday about the situation. He will also be meeting with KDE officials in the near future, as the process begins.
Dalton said last week that there are many questions to be answered and as soon as any other information is available the public will be informed.
Following the meeting, Dalton released an email to all staff in the Wayne County District, addressing the closure of Monticello School.
Abbott met with his staff early on Tuesday, December 18 and also sent a letter to all Monticello families that day as well. The letter outlines the action taken at the December 17 meeting of the school board and notes that the school district will now begin the process of merging with Wayne County Schools for the 2013-14 school year.
“We pledge to advocate what is best for the students of Monticello. We have a strong tradition and it is up to us and particularly the Class of 2013 to show grace and excellence during this time of transition,” Abbott stated in the letter. “Collectively, we represent the Monticello students, past and present, and the respect for our tradition will carry us through this process.”
“Monticello administration will be working with Wayne County Schools to ensure that all students in this community are loved, cared for and educated,” he stated. “The decision to merge districts will create academic, cultural, and social opportunities for our students. Opportunities such as academic course selections, ROTC, football, wrestling, extra-curricular activities, etc. will allow us to enhance the lives of all students and prepare them to be productive members of our society.”
The letter notes that academic progress remains the number one focus of Monticello School and that the school will continue as “Monticello Independent on January 2, 2013.”
The letter concludes, “We love our students and can promise you that they are and will continue to be our top priority.”
Local residents will have a chance to show their support for members of the 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery early on Saturday, January 5, as the soldiers with the local National Guard Unit depart from Monticello for deployment to Jordan.
The unit will first travel to Camp Shelby, Mississippi on January 5 and will later be deployed to Jordan. The deployment will last approximately nine months.
Don Lair, local D.A.V. Commander, hopes to see large crowds of people out on January 5 to say farewell to the unit as it departs. The soldiers are set to have an early breakfast with family members at the armory. Lair said the bus will arrive at about 7 a.m. (Eastern Time) and the unit is expected to depart from the armory between 7 and 7:30 a.m.
Local residents are invited to be outside the armory to show their support or anywhere along the route. Lair said the bus will leave the armory and travel Main Street to the Doughboy. From there the bus will travel Columbia Avenue to Bypass 90, and then is expected to head east on KY 90 past Cumberland Crossing.
“We would like to have as many people as we can at the Armory to see them off,” said Lair. “And we would like to have a lot of people up around Wal-Mart and that area to see them off as they leave town. We want to show that this community supports them and is behind them.”
The bus will be escorted by the Wayne County JROTC, the Patriot Guard and members of the Disabled American Veterans.
The nearly 200 soldiers with the unit were honored on December 16 at a departure ceremony held at Barren County High School. The 1/623rd will be the first Kentucky Guard unit to add the country of Jordan to their deployment list.
Soldiers with the 1/623rd will assume the advice and assist role in the training of Jordanian troops as part of a partner nation alliance in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.