SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Legislative Auditor General’s Office has released a 78-page audit of the Salt Lake City School District.
One of the main findings of the audit shows how inappropriate behavior by district leaders has led to ineffectiveness and inaction on key issues affecting students.
For example, SLCSD chose not to close non-enrolled schools and lost an opportunity to receive an additional $4 million in state funding.
FOX 13 Investigates: Salt Lake City School Board Members Caught Sending Profane, Professional Messages
The audit confirms the results of a 2020 FOX 13 investigation showing dysfunction and inappropriate behavior by the district’s board of selectmen.
“The culture and tone of the district created by board members can negatively impact the district’s internal controls and have the potential to reduce the district’s ability to meet its goals,” the audit states.
For example, board member Katherine Kennedy sent some profane messages to board chair Melissa Ford because she was upset that the meeting didn’t end on time.
The following posts have been censored by FOX 13 News.
“You promise,” Kennedy wrote. “You promised me. I HATE YOU. **** YOU.”
Parent Raina Williams discovered the messages through a public records request.
“I would never talk about my co-workers that way,” Williams said.
The emails also showed the district violated the Open and Public Meetings Act.
In response, the district apologized for the behavior and agreed to additional training.
Kennedy chose not to attend some practices.
FOX 13 Investigates: School Board Member Who Sent Profane Texts Avoids Professional Development
“Property tax revenues have allowed SLCSD to operate its elementary schools efficiently,” the audit states. “Inefficient schools cost SLCSD nearly $3.6 million annually in administrative, utility and food service costs. Two increases in property taxes may not have been necessary if the district had adjusted its elementary school count in time and chosen not to rebuild the elementary schools. .
Michael Clara, a former SLCSD board member, said he was not surprised by the audit’s findings.
“I was on the board a decade ago, and the same issues that were brought up in the audit were happening then,” said Clara. “I think the audit did its job.”
Clara said she was particularly concerned about the waste of money revealed in the audit. He understands that closing schools is not popular with parents, but he said it is sometimes necessary because of the board’s responsibility to taxpayers.
“In my time, I used to say we had two too many elementary schools. Today they are saying six,” said Clara. “I was against raising taxes because even 10 years ago I didn’t see the need… We cannot sacrifice the health of the district because we will hurt the feelings of adults at the expense of our students and community. “
In response to the audit, Ford and Superintendent Martin Bates disagreed that the district’s “schools are operating effectively,” but acknowledged that “per-pupil spending exceeds the state average.”
He said the district was committed to making changes, but could not make any promises about future actions the board of selectmen would take.
A full audit and district response can be found here.