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Grand jury releases report blaming school district’s financial problems on poor leadership 

Paso Robles Joint Unified School District logo–The San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury yesterday released a report, “Paso Robles School District: A Cautionary Tale” where it says poor leadership and management resulted in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District’s financial crisis.

This report looks at “failures in leadership and management that precipitated the recent crisis,” and provides a “detailed illustration of how a school district can inadvertently fail its students and the community it serves.”

This is a three-part report examining Paso Robles Joint Unified School District. The trilogy of reports, “School District Leadership,” “District Reserve Management” and “The Aquatic Complex,” is intended to highlight how people, systems, and institutions fell short in their obligations to their citizens.

The full transcript of the reports is at https://www.slo.courts.ca.gov/gi/jury-grandjury.htm This website also provides information on how to apply to become a grand juror. It also has the “Grand Jury Citizen Complaint Form” available for the public to submit complaints regarding county issues to the grand jury.

The school district says that it is “heeding the caution,” and noted that the new administration and current board have addressed these issues in the last two years, and the board and administration will continue to develop improved policies and practices.

“The past failures are inexcusable,” the district said in an announcement on Tuesday. “Steps have been taken to rectify the problems and the district welcomes the recommendations of the Grand Jury as the new board to be seated December 15 begins its work.”

The current school board will be reviewing the findings and providing any additional background to assist the district with its response to those findings and with insight on additional reforms based on the recommendations.

Conclusions from the grand jury report:

The financial problems that developed at the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District were a result of the actions of three groups charged with school system oversight. Their collective failures to control or report on excessive expenditures created a fiscal crisis that will take time and hard work to resolve.

The previous superintendent’s leadership is responsible for overestimating income and not controlling spending. Under his administration, the constant turnover in business and financial staff caused mismanagement in monitoring finances and budgets. The Trustees had hired a superintendent with a new direction and vision with the hope to revitalize their district. Unfortunately, the available funding failed to support the new vision. Despite that fact, the trustees approved expenditures in excess of available funds without sufficient questioning.

And finally, the limitations in the SLOCOE oversight procedures prevented the County from officially intervening in the district’s deficit spending pattern. Despite repeated warnings communicated to the superintendent and the Board President, no corrective action was taken. It was later determined that the communications from the County were never forwarded to the other trustees who remained unaware of the financial crisis on the horizon. On the other hand, the trustees are required to practice due diligence, which they failed to do.

This trifecta of abdication or dereliction of duties, mismanagement and leadership failure was evident in hearing from individuals and reviewing the documents requested by the Grand Jury in search for the truth of just what happened in Paso Robles. The circle of blame is a large one that offers a cautionary tale from which every school district can benefit.



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