New guidelines for student activity fund
DARIEN — Darien is looking to alter its student activity fundraising guidelines in a proposal presented at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
Director of Finance Michael Feeney said the proposal was based on suggestions from Mahoney Sabol, a CPA firm based in Glastonbury, from a review it conducted of the student activity accounts. The firm examines a random selection of transactions, as well as current practices and proposed new measures for best practices.
One of the biggest points of contention was the suggestion surplus money from each student activity fund be put into a districtwide student activity fund, unless the money was donated or raised for a specific purpose. The goal would be to help prevent theft from student activity accounts.
“Student activity accounts statewide are the No. 1 place for theft because they’re least controlled,” said Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner. “These measures will prevent that. Culpability is at board level. If there’s no good controls in place, the board still has culpability.”
New school programs for 2016-17
One of the new programs parents of children in the younger grades can expect to see is the new Chromebook one-to-one program. The idea is to have one Chromebook for each student. The program will roll out for grades four through seven this year and will go to the other grades over the next two years.
The district will hire an expert on differentiating instruction in the classroom to help teachers understand how to teach students with different learning styles and paces.
The district is implementing a new early intervention program to help identify students with special needs and help create models of support for them in schools.
Brenner said the excess fund rule would not be enacted until the end of the school year in 2017, so groups would have time to prepare. At that point, each group would fill out a form which would be sent to central office. The office would review it before transferring the funds. Excess funds under $1,000 would remain in the activity’s account, as per the recommendation of Mahoney Sabol.
The districtwide student fund could be used for anystudent activities in need. Board members expressed concerns about the money running out or being unevenly distributed among groups. However, the students would have to petition for the money and the ability to fundraise if the money is not granted. Brenner said the athletic director would be in charge of regulating the funds each team needs and making sure no team gets more than another. There would also be additional guidelines, so the extra funds wouldn’t go too quickly.
Another major suggestion for improving student finances was the usage of standardized templates across the district.
“What we found is we didn’t have a consistent template used across the board,” said Feeney.
The new proposal would require all grades and groups use the same form for deposits, purchase approval, gift forms, scholarship requests and fundraising requests. It was also suggested forms for purchases list the buyer’s name, the fund location, the authorized signer and the purpose of the fund.
“It’s important to have those signers on the account and the purpose of what each fund is supposed to be used for,” Feeney said.
The board generally approved of the fund, and Feeney will present it again at a as a policy to be voted on. The board said it will continue yearly audits of student funds, as well.