Auditor’s school project would be helpful here

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Natchez-Adams School District, and to a much lesser extent Adams County Christian School and Cathedral, will soon come into a bunch of money as part of the federal COVID rescue funds.

The Natchez-Adams School District will get more than $31 million dollars total. Some of that money will be funneled to ACCS and Cathedral to cover the Title I students — students who are disadvantaged and/or low-income — at each school.

The same with relief funds going to the City of Natchez and Adams County, many residents are concerned about how those taxpayer dollars will be spent.

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In the situation of the school district, it’s an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our children if the money is spent wisely and as investment in the future. We can only hope that happens.

I think it’s common knowledge that confidence in the Natchez-Adams School Board by many in the community is not high. That’s why just a few years ago, the county’s board of supervisors and the city’s aldermen endorsed a move to have school board members elected, rather than appointed as they are now. The state legislature has blocked that move to date.

In May 2018, a study showed out of 10 comparable school districts, the Natchez-Adams district spent more money on administrative costs than any and had more administrators than any of those districts.

From that, I think the impression has been that NASD spends a lot of money on things that don’t directly benefit students. Do we know that for certain? No, we don’t. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if some independent auditor would come in and study how our public school system is spending its money and make recommendations about how money would be better spent to directly benefit our students?

Enter Mississippi State Auditor Shad White. White’s office Monday will release the results of a pilot program in which the state auditor’s office partnered with three Mississipppi school districts to determine if money is being spent appropriately and determine better uses of taxpayer dollars.

The auditor’s office out of its budget paid for the company GlimpseK12 to go into each district and conduct a performance audit. The firm looked at every expenditure of each of the three districts and compared their expense ratios to those in the region, in the southeast U.S. and across the nation.

“This program is intended to be a management tool for the school board and the superintendent to make better decisions,” said Logan Reeves, communications director in the state auditor’s office. “It is intended to improve accountability and improve the operations of the individual school districts around the state.

“We are not doing this to play gotcha. This is an incredible tool for finding ways to improve the function of the school districts.”

I know in Natchez such an audit or examination by an independent group of how taxpayer money is being spent here and if those funds are being used in ways to directly benefit students would go a long way to boosting the confidence of residents here in school district leaders who are making those decisions.

The Natchez-Adams School Board should reach out to State Auditor Shad White’s office and seek to become part of this project and determine whether we are getting the best return on investment of our education dollars.

Jan Griffey is editor and general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may contact her at 601-445-3627 or at Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.