Last week, the community was shocked to learn that a school district employee had been stealing from the schools’ coffers. It was especially disturbing to hear charges filed estimating up to $450,000 in thefts.
On Friday evening, the superintendent of Southborough schools issued an update. The letter commits to continuing to keeping the school community informed. In it, she shared that the district is “cautiously optimistic” that embezzled funds that would cause a loss this fiscal year will be recaptured.
Many details about the crime are still under wraps at this point in the open investigation. So, there is no mention of how much/if any funds were stolen in past fiscal years.
But, Superintendent Christine Johnson does share the administration’s plans for moving forward.
To the School Community:
I distributed a One Call on March 3, 2016, which shared information regarding financial impropriety by a former employee, who served as budget officer for the District. I am committed to provide updates as the District moves through the investigatory process.
We continue to collaborate with the District Attorney’s Office as it leads this investigation. Simultaneously, our District is examining all financial and business practices and procedures and aggressively pursuing recovery of any losses. I am mindful of my responsibility to provide whatever information I can share; however, I am limited by what I can share, as it remains an active investigation. I am able to share the following:
- We are cautiously optimistic that any monies that would result in a loss in fiscal 2016 will be recaptured. We are working with our insurance providers and financial institutions; and, we are exploring all sources of financial recovery.
- Melanson & Heath, a well-known and respected auditing firm in Massachusetts that specializes in fraud examinations and forensic reviews of both private and public sector organizations is in the process of conducting this review. The purpose of this is to identify the amount of fraudulent transactions and identify any losses. A final report of findings and loss is anticipated within the next two weeks.
- I have contracted with a third party, certified financial consultant who will provide oversight of daily transactions and operations. This insures full transparency of current routine financial operations.
- I have authorized a Financial Operations Review, which includes a review of all business and financial processes in each District. A financial task force recommended by legal counsel, the forensic auditor and the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials will conduct this review. This organization has completed over 70 comprehensive reviews in numerous school districts.
This work will result in: (1) a report of findings and recommendations to be reviewed and implemented; (2) a completed forensic accounting of the loss and procedural safeguards; (3) a plan that outlines corrective action to secure and strengthen our fiscal procedures and practices. This in-depth and complex process takes time to complete. It is anticipated that this work will be completed by May 1, 2016.
Many questions remain; I am seeking every means to provide answers and to take timely and appropriate steps that will provide the community with information that is expected. At the center of our work is our students and providing for them the highest level of educational experience. Our students continue to access all of the programs and opportunities available to them and this current situation has not affected our ability to fulfill our mission.
Thank you for your continued support of our school community.
Christine M. Johnson
Superintendent of Schools