West York district officials say they welcome auditor general's review

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale outlines the findings of an audit of the York City School District, Thursday, April 20, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

West York Area School District officials say they have nothing to hide and welcome state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's review of the district.

DePasquale announced this week that his office will audit the district in light of several recent administrative moves, including a controversial buyout of the high school's longtime principal.

"We are an open book," Superintendent Todd Davies said, adding, "We do a great job of keeping records."

Davies, who replaced former Superintendent Emilie Lonardi in December, said he frequently consults the district's solicitor on financial decisions and can't imagine anything of concern coming out of the audit set to begin this summer.

“Mr. DePasqaule’s doing his job," school board treasurer George Margetas said. "The school district followed all the proper procedures and policies in place for these situations. I'm confident that there’s no wrongdoing that’s there."

Board president Todd Gettys would not comment on the audit but said he was looking forward to working with the auditor general's office.

Audit: DePasquale announced the audit Tuesday, April 17, in a news release, citing the administrative upheaval as an impetus for the review.

Reached by phone, he said changes made by Davies might make a lot of sense, but his office will be conducting "a tough, fair, independent audit." 

"We go into all these audits with an open mind," DePasquale said. 

Departures: The first administrator to depart was West York Area High School Principal Janet May, who left her position suddenly in February.

May is in a ghost role as middle school assistant principal until March 7, when her retirement will take effect. She will receive a salary of more than $125,000.

Kenton Meckley gets a hug from West York High School principal Dr. Janet May during commencement, Wednesday June 7, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

She is not allowed to report to work, according to the release agreement between May and the district.

Gettys read a statement at a Feb. 27 special school board meeting after the board unanimously approved the agreement, stating that May had been contemplating retirement for the following school year.

Given the start of a new administration under Davies, Gettys said, “the parties decided it was best for Dr. Davies and the school board to be given the opportunity to select a new administrative leader at the high school.”

That agreement, in particular, appears to have caught the auditor general's attention.

“While staff turnover is not unusual in school districts, it is important that contract buyouts and other district actions are closely reviewed and vetted by board members to ensure that they are in the best interest of students and taxpayers,” DePasquale said in the release.

Two other administrators also left their positions after May's move.

Former West York Area Middle School Principal Brad Sterner resigned in March, and Assistant Superintendent Paula Rudy resigned earlier this month, electing to transfer to one of the recently created full-day kindergarten openings.

Davies addressed these changes when reached by phone Thursday, April 19.

Sterner received a promotion, accepting a position as director of educational programming at the Lincoln Intermediate Unit — "something he really had a passion for," the superintendent said.

Davies said Sterner had been looking into getting into that kind of work, and he encouraged him to do so.

"I'm glad he's doing something he wants to do," he said.

Rudy's decision to move to a kindergarten was personal, Davies said. 

When Davies joined the district as superintendent, he said part of his entry plan involved talking with a lot of different people and coming to the decision to invest in full-day kindergarten.

Moving to full-day from half-day required adding staff and taking a different approach to education. Rudy asked to be transferred to that position.

"It worked for her in this time in her life," Davies said, noting that he's been hearing a lot of great feedback on how the kindergarten program is being organized. "She's been the architect of all of that." 

More:Another shake-up for West York Area School District administration

More:Former West York HS principal to be paid through March 2019 for no-show job

All the administrative moves occurred after Davies replaced Lonardi.

“West York Area School District taxpayers deserve clear answers about what is going on,” DePasquale said in the release. “As this is a district in a period of superintendent transition, it is important to ensure that any administrative changes are conducted as appropriately under the Public School Code.”

As part of the audit, DePasquale said he would also review the district’s sexual harassment and discrimination policies and safety policies and procedures. He said reviewing those policies is something his office is doing in every district.