Pa. auditor hopes to find Reading SD 'on the right track'

State audit of school district will begin Jan. 3

HARRISBURG, Pa. - More than four years after delivering a stern warning to Berks County's largest public school system, Pennsylvania's fiscal watchdog and his staff will be taking another look.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Thursday that his office will begin work January 3 on an audit of the Reading School District.

"Four years ago, my audit found the Reading School District had dysfunctional management, was not properly educating students, lacked controls over the spending of tax dollars, and failed to adequately restrict access to sensitive computer data, among other issues," DePasquale said.

During a news conference in Reading on May 3, 2013, DePasqaule told the Reading School District: "Get your house in order and do it now."

Two years earlier, DePasquale's predecessor, Jack Wagner, uncovered similar issues, including $76,000 worth of taxpayer money being secretly spent on catering for the school board and administrators.

"These were lavish meals," Wagner said at the time.

The new audit may examine areas that include financial stability, school safety, academic performance, contract management and monitoring, hiring practices, and teacher and administrator certification, DePasquale said.

One goal will be to determine whether the district of more than 17,000 students has addressed issues in the May 2013 audit.

"Since that audit was released, I have heard positive things about improvements in the district, including a more involved board, a more committed administrative staff, and a dramatic increase in community support for the district and its students," DePasquale said. "While I hope that is true, I want to independently verify that Reading School District is on the right track for its students and taxpayers."

A year after DePasquale released his scathing audit, the school district hired Philadelphia native Khalid Mumin as its new superintendent.

Mumin said Thursday that he welcomes the audit.

"This is an opportunity to recognize the improving state of the district's overall stability, financial position and school board governance since January 2014," Mumin said. "Under the current administration, the district has consistently presented budgets with no staffing or program cuts, stabilized fund balance and improved the financial outlook."

The new audit will cover July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2016.

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