Thank you for visiting the WLCSC Board of Trustees Community Questions page. We are very fortunate to live and serve in a community that values our schools. We know there are sometimes questions about our work as a board and are always grateful when those questions are asked of us directly so we have the opportunity to answer. We know that if one person has a question, others may as well, so we will periodically post questions and answers here after we have responded to the original requestor. We hope this is a helpful resource to our community and welcome follow up questions. You can feel free to direct those to our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Shawn Greiner, or to any member of the school board.
President WLCSC Board of Trustees
Is there a "slush fund" which came from transfer student monies that allowed school board members and staff to go to London on a trip?
The term "slush fund" is a political characterization and not a legitimate business or accounting practice. The expenditures in question were part of a Development effort by the Superintendent, the School Board President, and the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation related to a project designed to celebrate our alumni, cultivate the performing arts in the West Lafayette Schools, and enhance the potential to secure private donations for the Schools both now and in the future. A substantial portion of the expenditures on this project from the fund were reimbursed by the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation.
The fund in question is the “Public Relations” account which was created around 2009. At that time, the administration and school board established this account as a way to accept donations to help promote and advertise WLCSC. Somewhere around the 2011-12 school year, WLCSC board members at that time approved a student transfer policy which (legally) allowed the administration to place up to 10% of dollars received from cash transfer students (not to be confused with transfer tuition students), into WLCSC's PR account. WLCSC is an approved Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) school district, which allows foreign students to attend WLCSC schools. Bi-annually, our superintendent has to apply to reauthorize WLCSC. Per SEVIS requirements, international students pay an additional $5,000-$10,000 to attend our schools in addition to the ADM received by the state to educate each student. During that time, WLCSC administration, per School Board policy, deposited up to 10% of cash transfer dollars, (primarily the money received from international students) into the PR account and also continued placing other private donations into that fund as well. Typically private donations would go to the Foundation, however private donations are periodically received into the PR account from alumni or community members who prefer their donations to be made directly to the School.
Around 2014-15 there were changes to Indiana Code and subsequent changes to WLCSC policy. We were also nearing capacity in our schools and decreased cash transfer students, but did continue to receive SEVIS applications and continued receiving those funds. The PR fund continued to grow from up to 10% of those international cash transfer student funds and from other private donations.
The background of the PR fund and its use in this way has to do with the reduction in state support for education over the past twenty years which is also the dynamic that led to the creation of the Foundation. In response to changes in state policy, WLCSC was on the leading edge of K-12 public schools in Indiana to establish a dedicated education foundation. It was originally born from a desire in our community to support our schools and retain our teachers in case of a sudden and dramatic change in the funding model to public education. Voters may recall the (Save our Schools) SOS fund. From that time, the Foundation has continued to raise funds and support our schools in various ways: for example, the backpack program, alumni relations, scholarships, Wall of Pride, and various other initiatives. The Foundation is a separate entity from WLCSC, but we do have school board members assigned to the Foundation board, and our Superintendent is asked to work with the Foundation to ensure that the work of the Foundation is aligned with the mission of our schools. The two are very much united by Red Devil Pride.
More recently the Foundation has undertaken a Development role. Several years ago as the facilities committee (made up of parents, community members, teachers, admins, board members) was identifying the needs of the physical facilities, it became clear that there were big dreams and not everything would be able to be done. Dr. Killion approached Foundation leadership and asked for their support in helping to fund as many of those dreams as possible. This was a shift from working primarily inside local sources, to a broader reach to alumni around the United States and even the world. In response, the Foundation stepped closer to what is common for Development Offices for universities. This would involve additional expense for Development, both by WLSEF, but also additional effort from our Superintendent and Board President as representatives of the work our schools are doing. This is similar to the president or deans from Purdue working with Purdue's department of development to support Purdue's mission. Some of that funding for Development comes from donations, but as anyone would expect, donations must be used as the donor expects they will be, and some Development expenses, such as expenses related to the Superintendent’s efforts are borne by the school directly. Funding for these additional development expenses are paid from the Public Relations account.
As part of the Development for construction that I described above, the administration and School Board agreed to use some of the PR account for the trip to London which was connected to the Bob Kelly Performing Arts Center and its related Legacy project. Other portions of the trip were paid for through the Foundation, and reimbursed to the PR account. Additionally, participants who took their respective family members submitted personal checks for their family expenses on their own. This trip was associated with a significant donation. It is not specific to this donor or this trip, but the general hope is that continued outreach from school leadership and the Foundation will lead to greater private financial support for our Schools in the future.
Can you please explain what the school board president and school board's role is in the school corporation's transactions paid via credit card?
No member of the school board, including the board officers use the WLCSC credit cards for any personal, school corporation or school board related use. They are not authorized users. State law and sensible practices require that local government, including school corporations, have internal financial controls. There is in place a comprehensive set of internal checks and balances on, among other things, credit card transactions. Our system complies with the State's internal control requirements. A school board’s role is focused upon governance and recognizes that day to day management of the school is the role of its administrators. As such, this process does not require any additional review by the board or representative of the board beyond our routine review and approval of Account Payables, which the board does every month in our regular meeting.
Our board does, however, with the full cooperation of the Superintendent, work above this minimum. As history, several years ago when the board voted to approve the CFO/Superintendent recommendation to increase our purchasing via credit card to capture 'cashback' rewards for our schools, there was not as much detail for those transactions available on the A/P reporting software. One member, (Witt) wanted to better understand the detail of those transactions, particularly through the changeover, not because of inadequate internal controls (validated by state audit) but in the interest of maintaining a consistent level of detailed information. This member performed periodic review as an additional layer of check and balance and shared that with the rest of the board in public meetings. Over time, the level of detail available on the A/P report increased making the additional review redundant to the A/P report.
More recently, as part of the comprehensive review of our practices undertaken this year with new board and administrative leadership, the use of credit cards versus comparable common methods used by schools for purchasing, could potentially increase our "cashback/refund" benefit and is up for review. In anticipation of that, the board chair has resumed routine review of all credit card statements, and is sharing that information with the board so we may all participate in conversations with central office and the board about any potential change. Again, this additional review is in excess of what is required by law, and is done as service to the board and schools.
I am a resident of West Lafayette, my children attend West Lafayette Schools. I would like to know how many students attend the West Lafayette School System that DO NOT reside in the district. I believe that this should be a matter of public record.
Thank you for your message. The board agrees with you, this information should be public and IS public. The board specifically asked our corporation leadership to include that information when presenting to the board during our budget work session on Wednesday 9/21. We felt it was very important that our community understand the financial impact of accepting transfers at controlled level (if necessary) to operate with optimal capacity. Because as a work session it was intended only to share information with the board and our community, minutes of the meeting are not kept. We did want to make sure our community had a view of the process, so we asked our superintendent to release a letter to our community with summary highlights. Hopefully as a parent you received that "from the desk of the Superintendent" letter emailed out on Friday 9/23.
We currently have 111 TSC transfer students registered in WLCSC schools. This does not include staff students. Indiana code requires school corporations to allow staff members to enroll their children in our district even if they live out of district. We do also have a clear policy on the amount of income an employee of the corporation must earn to qualify to bring their student into the corporation.
Our schools are recognized by many as being excellent places to learn and to work. Almost three months into the school year, the state of Indiana still has nearly 1500 teacher vacancies. Schools in other areas have underqualified and unlicensed teachers in front of their students on a daily basis because they simply cannot hire and retain teachers. There are equivalent shortages of support personnel like paraprofessionals and bus drivers. Our schools started at full staff on day one and the ability for a teacher or staff member to bring their child(ren) into the corporation is, not just state law, but also an important recruitment and retention tool. We know as well that teachers and school staff are more engaged and invested when they are connected to our community. We want fully invested employees in our schools with our youth. There are also cost savings to the schools by welcoming students from outside the district. State school funding follows the student, not the available seat. If we have openings and we can fill those with students, it allows the school buildings to operate closer to capacity, which means we are operating more efficiently and cost effectively.
For additional information, you may also want to mark your calendar for the 10/10 Regular Meeting of the board as we will be receiving the demographic report in that meeting. The report is very comprehensive and will be vital to the work of the school corporation in short- and long- range planning for enrollment.
Is it true that the school corporation was audited by the state of Indiana and found to have been negligent and/or fraudulent?
Can you please explain the $95 million dollar debt number that has been thrown around on candidate forums and websites? Is there a balance sheet?
Most Schools in Indiana are publicly owned, supported by a combination of State and Local funds. In public fund accounting we don’t typically see a “Balance Sheet”. Public Schools utilize fund accounting. The only reconciliation is typically our cash position by fund. Public schools will also list all of their debt as well as lease obligations.
One of the reasons assets other than cash and investments are not listed is that they are publicly paid for and are therefore publicly owned. A school corporation cannot “collateralize loans / leases by mortgaging / pledging the real estate. Also, creditors / bond holders have no interest is utilizing publicly owned real estate to secure loans / leases. They would prefer a lease stream that is tied back to a public entity with taxable authority.
When borrowing for building projects many School Corporations in Indiana set up Limited Liability Corporations that enter into a long-term lease agreements with the School Corporation. The lease payments are pledged as security for the bond / loan and the payments are utilized to service the debt.
Is it true that the debt balance is $95 million, and it grew from $50 million? and why?
I recently heard that the reason our schools did not have any teaching vacancies this fall was because of a "significant" increase in class sizes. Is this true?
How is it legal for an incumbent candidate for school board, to use public resources (the WLCSC website) to address campaign issues? The Community Questions section only appeared in the last couple of weeks and only addresses issues attributed to two specific candidates. These issues have been before the administration, the board, and the community for two years. Why, just weeks before the election,are they now being allowed to address them on the school corporation's website? Will other candidates be given the opportunity to use the WLCSC website for their campaigns? NOTE: Question has been edited to remove specific names.
The Community Questions section has been a feature on the corporation website for two years. As part of board-goal setting for 2022-23, communications was a specific priority area set in alignment with the corporation 2022-23 priorities, and this section was revamped to reflect its current format. It is important that our community have access to accurate information about its schools; this is not campaign specific, rather just an increased level of transparency that as a board we have been actively reviewing and pursuing for some time in response to our community.
As a board and individual members, we receive questions from a wide range of patron viewpoints on a very routine basis. Patron questions have recently increased; it would not be unreasonable to associate this with interest in issues given the election cycle. . Specifically, no questions asked and answered on the website, up until this one have been asked by any candidate or anyone related to a candidate. The board officers review questions and contribute to the answers. All board members are also encouraged to nominate questions. To get the very best answer for our community, we may also choose to consult with professional employees of the corporation, such as the superintendent, external advisors such as legal counsel, financial advisors, or affiliated organizations such as the educational foundation, professional associations etc. There is a process set for these questions. As questions are answered, any board member may recommend a question for the Q&A page if they feel it has broader community interest. Or, as proven out in this instance, a community member may request that the Q&A be posted. The board officers will consider that request and may consult with all members, and post what is determined to be in the best interest of the schools and community. All proposed content to the WLCSC website, including the Q&A, is reviewed by our Superintendent for fact checking who then forwards the content to technology personnel.
With regard to the question of legality, the following was received from our new legal counsel (Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim) who are experts in education law.
“Before this year, I would have said publishing this type of Q&A was unusual, but this year we have a few different districts utilizing this type of effort to communicate factual information. There’s no legal concern here. It’s a public relations matter. The district can share factually accurate information about the district.”
“Even if it were some type of political campaigning, no law would be broken. There is no similar law for elections as referendum that prohibit use of district property or resources.”
We, as a school board, have a role in our community to remain focused upon our schools and student success. Answering community questions, to the best of our ability, both individually and publicly disseminated is aligned with that role. Political efforts are not so aligned. As such, we do not use our corporation website and or any resources to promote or endorse any political campaign, incumbent or challenger for any race.
Were the 2018, 2019, and 2020 debt issuances structured to avoid public scrutiny?
No.The debt issuances all followed the legal requirements in IC 6-1.1-20.3.1, 3.5 and
3.6, as shown below. There were extensive legal publications and public hearings and meetings
all as required by statute. The following is a brief history detailing each issue: 2017,2018, 2019
and 2020. Provided is the Principal Amount, the realized premium at closing on each issue,
capitalized interest on each issue, bond issuance costs on each issue, and respective
deposits. Also detailed are the projects that received the funds. Every issue included legal
consultation of Ice- Miller.
Now that the election is over and it's time to move forward, what is the process for onboarding the newly elected board members?
The process begins to onboard new members shortly after the election results are
announced. One of the board goals this year, knowing that we would have new member(s) and
a new central office staff, was to define a clear process and resources for training new members
as well as for continuing education and information of the veteran membership. We have
created a board information "binder" outline through researching onboarding materials used by
other boards and modified that to fit our needs in WL.