Toledo Public Schools to seek contract for performance audit

Larry Sykes, TPS Board of Education member, said Tuesday that he's ready to move forward with an audit.
Larry Sykes, TPS Board of Education member, said Tuesday that he's ready to move forward with an audit.

The Toledo Board of Education took another step Tuesday toward a performance audit of the school district, but already faces criticism over the organization the board appears to favor for the audit.

Board member unanimously voted to direct administrators to begin negotiations with the Council of the Great City Schools for a performance audit of TPS.

Administrators are to obtain cost estimates and a scope of work before the board decides whether to sign a contract with the organization, which is a national coalition of 67 large urban school districts.

Board members have discussed a performance audit for months, but found a sense of urgency in recent days in the wake of the defeat of the district's latest levy request. The audit could reveal cost savings and efficiencies.

The board chose the council over the state auditor's office for the performance audit; either organization would likely charge the district at least $100,000.

Exactly what areas the council will examine has not yet been determined, and board president Lisa Sobecki suggested the board wait until a scope of work was agreed upon before moving forward. She also questioned if the board was ready to make radical changes that might be suggested in the audit.

“Once it's done and we made that investment,” Ms. Sobecki said, “is the board going to have the will to actually enact what was put forward in the performance audit?”

Other board members, however, said that the idea of an audit had been discussed for too long without action, and it was time to move n it.

“I'm ready to move forward with this,” board member Larry Sykes said. “We need an audit.”

While a performance audit is embraced by some district critics, the choice of the Council of Great City Schools created new criticisms.

The Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition advocated during the TPS levy campaign for a performance audit of the district, and chose to campaign against the levy because of the lack of an audit. But John McAvoy, a board member of the coalition, told board members during the meeting that his coalition doesn't support a performance audit by the Council of the Great City Schools, because of the district's affiliation with the council. Mr. McAvoy instead advocated for an independent entity to perform the audit, specifically the State Auditor's Office.

Mr. McAvoy said after the vote that his group was against the use of the council to perform the audit because TPS is a member of the council and pays dues to the organization, creating at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, if not an actual conflict.

He said that his group will advocate that TPS reconsider and choose an independent organization for the audit before it signs an agreement.