Seven months after the Killeen Independent School District board commissioned a taxpayer-funded internal audit of the special education program, the district is withholding the report’s initial findings from the public.
The school district confirmed it has received the initial audit report and submitted revisions, but said it will ask the state’s attorney general whether it needs to share that information with the public.
The district did not answer a question about whether an attorney would be paid to write the request.
The district hired Gibson Consulting Group Inc. of Austin for $85,735 to conduct the program review, according to a May proposal letter. It was one of several such reviews under board contract with Gibson for a total of $340,960 for school year 2015-2016.
The special needs program review was to include discussions with parents and administrators, visits to schools and a collection of data.
“This internal audit will focus on the degree to which Killeen ISD effectively and efficiently serves students in special education while meeting compliance requirements,” Greg Gibson, president of Gibson Consulting, wrote Superintendent John Craft in a May 19 letter.
The report was given to the district Jan. 3, according to district officials. The district was supposed to return the report in 10 days, according to its contract with Gibson. The district returned the report Feb. 3 after compiling its “first set of revisions/corrections to the draft report,’’ officials said in an email Saturday.
The Herald requested the original report prior to the revisions.
Meanwhile, as the district reviews its audit, parents continue to request help for their special-needs children, resulting in delays and lost educational time.
KISD’s special education problems were uncovered in March by the Texas Education Agency. The oversight agency investigated the district’s special education department and found services for special education students had been delayed over the past seven years. The findings were made public at a KISD board workshop in July.
On July 14, the school board approved Gibson Consulting’s May 19 special education audit proposal. The contract said the work would start July 8. Gibson planned to send its report to the district Dec. 18.
The Herald’s request for the special education audit was Dec. 17.
Under the Texas Freedom of Information Act, the Herald asked the district to provide a complete copy of the special education audit by Gibson Consulting Group.
District spokesman Shannon Rideout responded to the Herald’s request the next day saying, “The internal auditor has notified the district and indicated the initial draft of the special education report will be provided in January.”
The district later confirmed Gibson delivered the initial draft in January, but it was not released to the public.
Craft issued a statement on the audit delays Friday.
“The district has worked diligently to ensure the district responses to the internal audits are thoughtful, accurate and will provide appropriate guidance and direction for further action planning and implementation,” Craft said. “In doing so, the submission of district responses, scheduling appropriate meetings, and ensuring effective communication takes time and remains dynamic as district administrators remain committed to serving our students and staff needs first and foremost. The intent of the internal audits remain to not only provide reports for the Board of Trustees, but to also assist the District through the continuous improvement process across various departments and programs.”
The point of contention between the district and the Herald centers on what the public has a right to see.
In July, when the special education audit was approved, the school board also created a three-member “board audit committee.” According to the committee charter, the board committee reviews audit findings and informs the board of internal audit reports and recommendations.
These board committee meetings are closed to the public and, therefore, the unaltered findings of the special education audit may stay behind closed doors as well. On Feb. 10, Craft confirmed the initial document has already been revised.
“As I have explained, we (district administration) have received and responded to the initial draft audit report and we are awaiting the revised draft to be submitted for the Board Audit Committee to review,” Craft said in a Feb. 10 email to the Herald.
The district denied the Herald’s request for the unaltered raw report, instead opting to seek the legal opinion of the attorney general.
On Feb. 11, Mike Harper, Killeen ISD professional standards administrator, told the Herald the district intends to file a request for an opinion with the attorney general’s office to withhold the initial “draft” and any subsequent drafts revisions from the Herald and the public.
“As of the date of your request, the district has, in fact, been provided with a draft audit report,” Harper said. “However, in accordance with state law, this draft constitutes an ‘audit working paper’ and will be withheld by the District in accordance with Texas Government Code Section 552.116.”