Inyo Grand Jury reports on Inyo County Office of Education

By Deb Murphy

The 2015-16 Inyo County Grand Jury report zeroed in on the Inyo County Office of Education addressing concerns related to the management agreement between YouthBuild Charter Schools in Southern California and Superintendent Terry McAteer as well as how the funds from that agreement were spent.

The bottom line: The Jury recommended some changes in how those funds would be dispersed and the contract managed, but none of the report’s findings were all that damaging.

The one issue that could have future ramifications was “breach of confidentiality by the Inyo County Superintendent of Schools.” The report found there were breaches “about grand jury testimony at several levels in the Inyo County school system.” The Jury’s evidence will be “turned over to the appropriate authorities.”

More than half of the 62-page report was devoted to concerns, findings and recommendations to the Office of Education.

We’ll cut to the chase:

Funds from the charter agreement are used for special projects and not for district teacher salaries because the money is “not a stable source of income and there is not a need for them to pay teacher salaries.

How that $1.8 million money is spent should be determined by a committee of district superintendents and teachers rather than at the sole discretion of the county superintendent.

The charter contracts are with the superintendent rather than the Office of Education. The Jury recommended those agreements be restructured with the Office of Ed as the management services provider to assure those funds stay with Inyo County.

One issue raised was the amount of control the Board of Education had over the Superintendent. That relationship is different than the count’s school districts: those boards can hire and fire their superintendents; the county superintendent of schools is an elected position.

The report recommended a legal review to determine the roles, responsibilities and power of the ICOE board. Depending on the outcome of that review, the report recommended the board take a more active and critical role in the OCOE.

The Jury recommended “that at least two people be trained to manage and administer” the charter program contract.”

Inyo Promise—free admission to Cerro Coso Community College and reduced tuition at University of Nevada, Reno—should continue to be funded by an endowment administered by the Eastern Sierra Foundation.

In response to the erosion of vocational education funds due to state legislation, the Jury recommended an endowment similar to Inyo Promise to sustain adequate funding to districts.

The report found that McAteer’s projects and programs were good but may not have been reflected in individual school Academic Performance Indexes.

According to the report’s analysis, all schools in the county, with the exception of Round Valley and Owens Valley elementary, were below the 800 target score during the 2013 testing period. Seven of the remaining 11 tested schools were in the 700s.

The Grand Jury recommended a task force to develop a structure and process for “tracking and measuring the effectiveness of program-related expenditures by the ICOE and specifically how the expenditures are improving the overall quality of education in Inyo County.”

The Office of Education has either 60- or 90 days to respond. The report was officially submitted to Judges Dean Stout and Brian Lamb, June 20.


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