The state Board of Education fined two Oklahoma school districts Thursday for spending too much money on administration.
Cameron Public Schools, in Le Flore County, was fined about $58,000. Thackerville Public Schools, in Love County, was penalized about $29,000.
The fines will be withheld from state aid checks for the rest of the fiscal year, said Nancy Hughes, executive director of financial accounting for the state Education Department.
The board voted 5-1 to levy the fines. Board member Joy Hofmeister, of Tulsa, dissented.
“I agree with the principle of what we're doing, but I'm concerned about who's going to suffer,” Hofmeister said. “What services are lost? Is that a teacher that's being fired because there's no money to pay? How do you deal with that? How does that impact students?”
Other board members said the blame falls on the local school board members, who negotiated the contract buyouts.
“The school board did this,” said board member Amy Ford, of Durant. “This goes to the accountability of the school board.”
School districts are limited to what can be spent on administration according to enrollment.
The fines are equivalent to the district's overage.
Cameron Public Schools exceeded the limit by more than $58,000. Superintendent Jim Caughern wrote a short letter to the state Board of Education explaining the problem.
“The reason for excess of administrative cost is due to the board of education electing to buy out previous superintendent, Carolyn White,” Caughern wrote.
Thackerville Public Schools spent nearly $29,000 too much. A buyout of former Superintendent David Herron pushed administrative costs above the legal limit, according to a letter written by payroll clerk Marcia Bell.
“Our school had to buy out his contract beginning with February 2012 and ending in June 2012,” Bell wrote. “The amount of $32,659.35 was how much our district had to pay Mr. Herron for the remainder of his contract.”
Also, Farris Public School, in Atoka County, overspent on administration. The board fined the district nearly $10,000 last month. Hughes said the overage was due to spending too much on the superintendent.
In other business
• The board approved a proposal to create more options for students looking to pass state-mandated end-of-instruction exams before graduating from high school. Students who do not pass the exams can prove they understand a course by completing a project. The new project system has three tiers: one for traditional students, one for students with learning or other disabilities and one for students who are severely disabled.
• A month after a report came out criticizing the A-F school evaluation system, state Superintendent Janet Barresi discussed the research.
The report was done by researchers at the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at the University of Oklahoma and the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation at Oklahoma State University.
Though still not discussing her opinion of the report, Barresi said it had been received.
“This report is part of the large body of comments,” Barresi said. Last week, a group of 25 superintendents called on Barresi to respond to the report, which came out in January.
The report was commissioned by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council for School Administrators, and was reviewed by independent academic authorities.