Deadline for applications is August 16. The slate of semi-finalists will be presented to the Board on August 29 and finalists will be interviewed the week of September 12. The School Board is expected to make a selection at the conclusion of the process.
For at least a decade, principals at South Plantation High allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars in school funds to be diverted to an outside bank account, bypassing rules imposed by the Broward School District to safeguard its money from misuse.In one flush year, records show more than $350,000 was in the account; in the last two years, it was $200,000 or more. The district's chief auditor, Patrick Reilly, called it a "clandestine bookkeeping operation," and said it paid for about $4,200 for Florida Marlins tickets, $4,450 for shoes and clothes for the baseball team, and $1,600 for a Back-to-School barbecue.The school even had a $75,000 investment fund, not authorized by the district.District auditors say it's possible other schools are using similar accounts. "We don't usually ask the question, 'Where's your other, second set of books?''' Reilly said.The fund, which mixed some district money with fund-raising proceeds, was managed by the Parent Teacher Student Organization, a group outside the authority of district auditors. It was used for about three years by current principal David Basile, and from 2000 to 2006 by Joel Herbst, who is now an area superintendent supervising some principals.Basile flagged the account to auditors last year after concerns were raised by the PTO president and it was later closed at Basile's request. He declined comment for this article.Herbst said he wasn't aware the school's use of the account violated district and state policies."Certainly, if I was aware I would have immediately taken appropriate measures to correct the deficiency," Herbst wrote in an email to the Sun Sentinel.Reilly, however, said principals receive ample training in how to manage school funds. Funneling money "outside" the school creates an opportunity for fraud — and makes it difficult to track, he said.For instance, auditors can't tell who used the Florida Marlins tickets. And the $4,450 check for shoes and clothes went to a "guy in Stuart," violating district-approved vendor contracts, he said."Did it get to the kids? I don't know," Reilly said.District officials aren't sure how long the practice existed. Auditors have been able to review only two complete years of records, though they say it dates back at least 10 years. Area Superintendent Desmond Blackburn put it at 19 years, according to district records.Auditors only learned of the practice last year and have spent months trying to unravel how much money was spent and where, said Reilly.Basile, who has been at the school about four years, told district officials he didn't realize the account was in violation of district and state policies. Herbst said it was used for "the welfare of the school" and in keeping with the philanthropic mission of the PTO.But putting the school money in that account meant auditors could not track it. They only saw financial reports on accounts signed by the principal and school bookkeeper each month.The PTO isn't obligated to give its records to the district. It filed financial papers as a nonprofit organization dating back to at least 2004, but those records don't clarify how the money was spent.Auditors might not have discovered the fund at all if PTO president Kay Arnold hadn't raised concerns, prompting Basile to close it last July, Reilly said. Arnold couldn't be reached for comment, despite three phone calls.Both Herbst and Basile have been honored by the district for excellence as principals. Herbst was named Principal of the Year during his tenure at South Plantation. Basile was a finalist for the award this year.Neither Interim Superintendent Donnie Carter or school board members could be reached for comment, despite each receiving at least one phone call and email.Auditors are expected to present their report to the School Board on Aug. 2.Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
A recent community meeting updated residents on the conditions and academic progress at three Hallandale Beach schools.Discussion at the meeting, sponsored by the Broward School Board's Diversity Committee, the Hallandale Beach Education Advisory Committee and the Hallandale High School Task Force, centered on the high school, Gulfstream Middle and Hallandale Elementary School.Several administrators highlighted positive aspects at their schools, including Hallandale Elementary, which pointed to its nine-year record as an A school."I can tell you for sure our school is headed in the right direction," said Brian Kingsley, principal at Gulfstream Middle.Hallandale High School also touted its successes, reporting that 99 percent of its 2011 class participated in the graduation ceremony.Despite this, lingering questions remained about the condition of the school's facilities.A report detailing a site visit made in December revealed the observations of the diversity committee, some of whom were upset over conditions at the school.The report, which described "prolonged years of neglect and lack of resources" at Hallandale High, included pictures of missing portions of a ceiling with exposed plumbing in the boys' locker room, frayed power cords, torn chairs on weight equipment, outdated textbooks, and noted a "a strong odor upon entering the school building."In response to the report, the school is undergoing a series of upgrades aimed at addressing the top 20 most-needed renovations suggested by the committee.At the meeting, South Area Superintendent Joel Herbst outlined a number of projects at the school, including new computers, textbooks and novels, a new hydraulic lift for the automotive shop, refurbished bathrooms, and a remodeled boys' locker room.James Sparks, a member of the diversity committee who voiced concerns about the condition of the softball field, said he wants progress to continue."I'm not asking for anything other than what we deserve. I have seen tremendous improvements, but why did it take so long?" he asked.The Rev. Josh Brown, who graduated from Hallandale High in 1978 and whose daughter also graduated from there, wrangled with officials at the meeting over whether irrigation or drainage was an issue in flooding near the school."The school opened its doors in 1977. We are talking about issues that still have not been addressed," he said.Catherine Kim Owens, co-chairwoman of the diversity committee, said she hopes the conversation with school officials will continue and that the only way to change conditions is by more parents getting involved."That's one of the reasons why I joined the diversity committee," she said. "We need to get involved if we are not happy with the facilities. Unless we speak up, we are not going to get heard."