Missouri state auditor begins review of Hazelwood schools at parents’ request | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri state auditor begins review of Hazelwood schools at parents’ request

Apr 19, 2017

Parents in the Hazelwood School District who were concerned that administrators are being too well compensated while other areas of the school system get cut successfully prompted a state audit of the district’s finances.

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway announced the audit Tuesday, but said it’s too early to say what her office is looking for.

Parents’ petition drive lasted several months and required more than 5,000 signatures to trigger an audit. Collecting that many signatures is “significant” and shows parents in the district “really care” about their children’s education, Galloway said.

Galloway said she’s approaching the audit unbiased and is withholding judgment, but that “we do find in our audits of school districts and charter schools manipulation and some serious issues.”

The audit will take about a year to complete at a cost of more than $100,000; the Hazelwood district will foot the bill.

In a letter to the editor of the Post-Dispatch last fall, petition drive organizer Betsy Rachel said parents have “significant cause to question” the district’s spending practices.

“In a district where nearly two-thirds of the student population are enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program, parents cry foul when they see hundreds of dollars spent on catering every month to feed not only school board members, but several district administrators for whom taxpayers are already footing the bill for six-figure salaries,” Rachel said.

Hazelwood has lost band and physical education teachers, according to a February 2016 Post-Dispatch article. There have also been cuts to extracurricular activities and field trips.

The Hazelwood School District did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. St. Louis Public Radio also made several attempts to contact parents involved in the petition efforts.

The district has 29 schools covering several far northern St. Louis County communities.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway.
Credit File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Progress for Fox schools

The Fox School District also underwent a state audit that started last year.

That audit found that former superintendent Dianne Critchlow and deputies tallied up $100,000 in “questionable expenses with little oversight by the board,” Galloway said in a statement.

But Galloway’s progress report, which was released Wednesday, said the district “made great improvements.” She said the district and board have closed many of the gaps that allowed for overuse of credit cards

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney.