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L.A. County Office of Education Superintendent Dr. Duardo Slams Montebello School Board President Flores

MUSD Board President Joanna Flores

By Brian Hews

In a letter dated March 7, 2018 to the L. A. County Office of Education (LACOE), Montebello Unified School District President Joanna Flores took exception to the oversight of the LACOE’s appointed fiscal advisor Dr. Mark Skvarna writing he may be “overstepping his authority and is interfering with district governance.”

Flores stated that Skvarna has “involved himself in the preparation of the agenda for board meetings, instructed the district to terminate long standing contracts with certain vendors, as well as terminate contracts that had no impact on the district’s general fund.”

Flores defiantly stated that the district has requested Skvarna provide “adequate written justification demonstrating why his actions are necessary.”

The inexperienced Flores finished, “if LACOE is aware of authority that supports Mr. Skvarna’s exercising such broad controls over district operations, the district requests that the LACOE provide the district with applicable statutes or policy.”

In a letter written twelve days later,  LACOE Superintendent Dr. Debra Duardo slammed Flores saying the education code “provides for the LACOE Superintendent to superintend all of the school districts within Los Angeles County.”

Duardo made her case by first outlining the numerous concerns with the overall operations of the MUSD including, “poor financial management and governance, failure to follow prescribed hiring practices, hiring unqualified staff, inappropriate use of bond funds, failure of proper oversight of bond funds, and failure to adhere to LACOE’s warning regarding deficit spending.”

Duardo added, “my office is fully aware of the Security and Exchange Commission investigation and that the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) is currently performing a fraud audit of the district’s Adult Education Program.”

Duardo said in no uncertain terms that the LACOE has the power to do whatever they want within MUSD.

“LACOE can review or audit the expenditures and internal controls of school districts in the county if there is reason to believe misappropriation of funds or other illegal fiscal practices have occurred.”

“Based on the reports and documents provided to my office, I find cause to expand the review of the district’s operation.”

Duardo then put Flores in her place writing, “Skvarna has the ability to influence expenditure patterns and advise the superintendent and board on expenditures. LACOE remains resolute in our commitment to ensure that we resolve the district’s challenges and create a pathway to organizational stability. I appreciate your commitment to work with LACOE to ensure the district achieves this goal.”

Long-time Montebello resident Charlie Pell told HMG-CN, “”I am very disappointed that a majority of the Montebello board of education continues to resist doing the right thing.   This time, they expended time and resources to attempt to resist reform by challenging the clear, unambiguous authority of the County Superintendent to regulate and investigate their purported fraud, waste, and abuse.   The County Office of Education (LACOE) has made it clear that fiscal expert Dr. Skavarna has full legal authority to control and supervise the finances of MUSD.   I feel confident that Dr. Skvarna will exercise that authority to stop and correct all the wrongdoing committed over the past two years and restore MUSD to its former greatness.”

MUSD senior board member Hector Chacon told HMG-CN, “the letter sent to the L.A. Office County of Education was not approved by me, nor was I aware of it until after it was sent to the County. I’m glad Dr. Skvarna is here because it helps put another layer of  checks and balances to the governing board; especially in light of some past budgetary mismanagement policy decisions that have brought MUSD into a negative light based on bad hiring and firing personnel decisions over the last two years. I was on the opposing and minority end of the vote, and could only voice my descending vote.”

Chacon finished, “by having the the L.A. County Office of Education attend our board meetings and have overall authority, it allows someone like myself-who is not part of the majority of the board-to know that when I get out-voted in a policy decision, the County can take a serious look at the agenda item they voted on and determine whether or not they were sound financial practices. I urge my fellow board members to respect the law and join me in working together with LACOE to  return MUSD to being the jewel of California’s school districts.”

Word on the street and sources are telling HMG-CN that other school districts may be subjected to increased scrutiny and review in the same manner as MUSD.

 

 

 

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