During the Lake Wales Charter School business session and board meeting on November 29, 2021, school solicitor Robin Gibson shared an update from legal counsel. Mr. Gibson advised the Board that a new legal matter had arisen. Each Council member received a memorandum from the law firm of AM Stuckey with offices in Lake Wales. Gibson shared that the memorandum appeared to relate to an ETP audit that would affect Lake Wales Secondary School. Mr. Gibson went on to say that he would communicate directly with the lawyer who presented the memorandum and accommodate them as much as possible.
Danny Gill, trustee and chairman, asked Alricky Smith, chief financial officer of the Lake Wales Charter School System, if there was any validity to the audit of $248,000. Mr. Smith said the document appeared to fall within the scope of an audit called the Florida Education Program Audit, which is typically conducted by Florida’s Auditor General.
Mr. Smith shared that the audit is part of an ongoing commitment. As Lake Wales Charter Schools is part of the Polk County School District, the actual engagement was with the Polk County School Board. One of the schools identified in the audit was Lake Wales Secondary School and was the subject of an audit review.
Based on the information provided, Mr. Smith said there were preliminary findings for the amount of $248,000. Mr. Gill asked Mr. Smith if he was involved or part of the audit. Mr. Smith replied, “No sir, I’m partially sorry.” Mr Smith shared that he had discussions about the audit with the principal of Lake Wales Secondary School, Donna Dunson, in September. Mr. Smith went on to say that he had never been in contact with the auditor and did not attend the exit conference. Mr. Gill shared that there was a lot of information that needed to be reviewed and thanked Mr. Smith for answering his questions.
The Daily Ridge has researched the audit claims and it appears the Lake Wales Secondary Schools 2019-2020 school year was part of the audit. The audit notice was provided to the school on March 9, 2021, which was scheduled to begin April 19, 2021. The audit found eight deficiencies that the school did not meet by state standards. Based on the findings of the state audit, these eight deficiencies could result in the school receiving an adjustment of $248,317.41 that could be taken from the annual funding the school receives from the school. ‘State.
The Daily Ridge contacted Mr. Smith for further clarification regarding the audit.
Has this possible adjustment been resolved with the State?
The Polk County School Board’s FTE Audit Report for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 (AG-424) has not been released as a final report by the Florida Auditor General’s Office. Lake Wales High School will have the opportunity to respond to its findings once the report is submitted to the Florida Department of Education (FDOE).
Will the adjustment be applied or will the adjustment be discarded?
Once the findings are resolved, the FDOE will direct the Polk County School Board on how to collect any state funding owed, if that is the end result.
When were you informed of the ETP audit?
In spring 2021, the school principal first noted that the school was engaged in an ongoing FTE audit at a Lake Wales Charter Schools management meeting. The school later noted that the audit was still ongoing at the annual Lake Wales Charter Schools Board retreat.
When did you learn that a potential adjustment of $248,317.41 was being imposed on the school?
The first draft of preliminary and interim findings was presented to me on August 10, 2021.
Is there a policy or protocol in place that would notify the president or board of possible audits or levies?
Lake Wales Charter Schools does not currently have a policy on notifying the board of audit engagements. However, the CFO always noted in a board meeting that the financial statement audit was ongoing.
If there is a policy or protocol, did Principal Dunson follow the policy?
No, the policy has been violated, but principals have been advised that any external reviews or audits must be communicated to the superintendent and chief financial officer prior to engagement.
Based on the school board’s agenda and minutes posted on their website, it does not appear that the school board has addressed the findings of the audit or addressed the items contained in the protocol that was presented. which could result in a loss of funding of $248,317.41 for the school.
You can watch the video here LWCS Business Session and Board Meeting – YouTube
The audit conversation takes place during the first 17 minutes of the meeting.