Audit faults EBR recordkeeping

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system should rely more on students’ electronic records rather than paper records to validate the accuracy of grades reported to the state, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said in a brief report issued Monday.

“Student registration, grade change, withdrawal and other paper records are maintained by each school’s guidance department,” according to the two-page letter.

“We found that the maintenance for these paper records varied greatly from school to school,” it says. “This inconsistency in paper record maintenance causes difficulties for school administration and/or third parties (auditors and regulatory bodies) to locate records.”

Bernard Taylor Jr., superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, said Monday that Purpera’s review is most notable for the fact that it found no evidence of fraud or malfeasance and “clearly debunks some of the erroneous statements” made by some critics of the district when the issue surfaced.

Taylor said Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, compared the controversy to Watergate, a scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

The Committee for the Incorporation of St. George, in a news release issued in March, described the controversy as the “single greatest scandal” in the history of East Baton Rouge Parish.

“The people who made those statements need to take ownership,” Taylor said.

In a written response, Taylor said issues raised in Purpera’s review were addressed in a report that the district submitted to the state Department of Education on May 2.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system “is aware of the concerns and has taken steps, and continues to research processes to eliminate all potential errors in managing student data,” Taylor wrote.

The corrective action plan includes new safeguards to prevent similar problems in the future.

Earlier this year, local school officials also delayed giving out diplomas for weeks to make sure all 2,000 graduates of the class of 2014 had correct transcripts.

Purpera’s review acknowledged recent changes.

“Although we found EBRPSS’s paper academic records to be, in some cases, inconsistent, incomplete and/or inaccurate, it should be noted that EBRPSS’s current policies and procedures require teachers to enter student grades directly into the electronic system at the time they are earned,” according to the audit.

The district generally agreed with Purpera’s recommendations to tighten oversight of grades and credit from online courses.

The report is the third of it kind amid questions about the accuracy of student records in East Baton Rouge Parish public schools.

Purpera’s report follows one critical of the district’s record keeping that the state Department of Education issued in March.

State Superintendent of Education John White referred the findings to Purpera’s office and the state inspector general, saying they involved possible malfeasance and misuse of public funds.

A second review, at the request of the district, was done by Postlethwaite & Netterville.

It found no evidence of fraud on the part of the school staff, although it did show the school system had some problems with record keeping.

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