More MCAS & MEA Misinformation Part 1: Montclair Already Has External Auditors

Another day, another bit of misinformation from the MCAS/MEA crowd (really, one and the same, as Michelle Fine has admitted) as they continue their throw-everything-at-the-district-and-see-what-sticks campaign. Unfortunately, that includes throwing-a-lot-of-stuff-that’s-not-true, and sometimes just flat out lying. Often, this sort of behavior is referred to as “just making s*** up.”

Today, we’re launching what we’re sure will be a series that’s chock-full of content: More MCAS & MEA Misinformation. Our first selection: irresponsible and misinformed calls for ‘independent audits’ in the district. The other day at the Board of School Estimate meeting, one MCASer (Martha Evans) decided to go after the district, making some wild, baseless, entirely unsubstantiated claims about money being lost or misspent by the district and claiming that what’s really needed is an independent, external audit:

“We need a full independent audit to uncover what has happened to all the money that has been spent the last few years and seems to be unaccounted for. This is another resounding question we hear from people out in the community. There have been ongoing requests for an external audit for some time and this needs to happen soon and it should be a detailed one.”

It’s not the first time the MCAS/MEA crowd has pushed this angle. Gayl Shepard made the same call:

“[Shepard] reiterated her comments from previous meetings, calling for an independent audit of the Board’s finances, and including the MEA in budgetary decisions.

And here’s another MCASer pushing the same angle, and suggesting – wrongly and conspiratorially – that money is missing:

“An independent, internal audit should be conducted and Dr. MacCormack should be immediately relieved of her responsibilities. An interim Superintendent should be appointed who is familiar with and respects our magnet program and who values and respects public education.”

Good news everyone: it’s another made-up problem from MCAS. The truth is, Montclair has had an external, independent audit assessment in 2014, available on the website (below the Operation Office tab):

BOE website - Copy

The firm that conducted the audit, Nisivoccia LLP, is a legitimate independent auditing and accounting firm. The firm was tasked with “performing procedures to obtain audit evidence about the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements.” In fact, the firm actually commended Montclair for its significant improvement of “record keeping processes, financial statements and the organization of information.”

“Raymond Sarinelli, CPA, the lead partner for Nisivoccia’s independent audit stated, “Having personally conducted the annual audit for the Montclair School District for the last three years, and seen firsthand the state of the District’s records, it is important for the community to understand that in the last year significant improvements have been made in the area of record keeping, processes, financial statements and the organization of information. Significant corrective action has been requested in the past and we were thrilled to see needed progress in this area.”

They’re a reputable audit firm – other school districts have relied on Nisivoccia LLP to conduct their external audits. Our new interim superintendent Ronald Bolandi was interim superintendent over at Bedminster Township when Nisivoccia LLP was selected by that Board of Education to run an independent audit in 2014 for the district. The firm also ran independent audits at:

Etc.

So if the district is already conducting independent audits, why are MCAS and the MEA calling for them? Shouldn’t Shepard, at the least, know better than this, and call off her attack dogs in MCAS (in addition to not pushing misinformation herself)? Obviously, the answer is yes. But it’s important to see this kind of misinformation from MCAS and the MEA in context: for them, this isn’t about the facts, the schools working better, or a reasonable and responsible solution to our budget issues. It’s about scoring political points and attacking the district and damaging the leadership’s credibility. That way, they can get what they want. For them, it’s not about improving the schools, it’s just about politics.

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