New Castle News


November 8, 2013

New Castle Schools: District responds to state audit findings

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle Area School District is answering state audit findings it received earlier this year.

One finding addresses three teachers who did not pay tuition for their out-of-district children who attended city schools.

At a special meeting Wednesday, the school board unanimously approved the district’s response to the findings, which was written by administrators.

The district received a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, written Sept. 26, instructing it to review and respond to the state auditor general’s audit report that had been released publicly in May. That audit was for the years ending June 30, 2009, and June 30, 2010.

The district already had responded informally to two of the findings directly to the auditor general’s office, but not the tuition finding.

Those two findings concerned administration of the district’s umbrella fund and tracking the accounting of student activity funds.

The department of education’s letter specified that within 45 days, the district must submit a response and a corrective action plan with a time table for implementing it.

If the audit identifies a potential educator certification violation, the letter states, the district will be contacted by the department’s bureau of school leadership and teacher quality.

The finding regarding the tuition issue states that seven nonresident children of district employees were enrolled in the district as residents without documentation to demonstrate their eligibility for residency status. This cost the district $110,664 in state subsidy, which it now must repay.

The audit found the matter violated both the Pennsylvania Public School Code and the district’s own board policy.

In the document being sent to the state, the district concurred with the finding and listed these steps it took to correct the matter:

•Conducted a thorough investigation into the issue.

•Conducted due process hearings with the parents/employees who were involved and their attorneys.

•Is finalizing signed agreements with the parents/employees for them to make restitution. Superintendent John Sarandrea said after Wednesday’s meeting that those agreements are not finalized, but could be by next week.

•Took disciplinary action against the involved parents. Sarandrea would not say what those actions were, noting it is a personnel matter.

•Revamped the district’s enrollment of student policies, which the school board approved Aug. 14.

•Designated building-level principals as the only persons who can enroll students in their respective schools.

•Hired an attendance officer whose responsibilities include, but are not limited to, investigation of all residence issues reported to the district.

Last month, the board hired Richard Eagle Jr. of Harmony to investigate reported residency matters and truancy problems in all grades.

Sarandrea reported to the board Wednesday that Eagle’s $30,000-a-year position has already paid for itself. He explained Eagle had investigated a report of a Shenango Township youth enrolled in the New Castle district who, for more than a year, has been placed in St. Stephen’s Lutheran Academy in Harmony, an educational institution for students with emotional and behavioral issues.

The city district had been paying the student’s tuition there, according to Sarandrea, and the residency matter was reported to the district by a family member.

The tuition is $30,000 a year, “and we are owed more than $30,000,” Sarandrea said. “We’re entitled to that money back, so there’s (Eagle’s) salary in three weeks.”

“I can speak with confidence that we will not have a finding of this nature again,” he said of the nonresidency issues.

He pointed out that if someone has the courage to come forward and legitimately report such matters, the district will investigate to the fullest extent, “and if somebody wants to roll the dice now, they get what they get.”

“I feel that we’ve done our due diligence here, regarding putting things in place to investigate anything of that nature,” he added.

The three staff members who were subject of the audit finding — Jamie Lynn DeMase of Neshannock Township, a teacher at Harry W. Lockley Kindergarten Center; Dinia Kollar of Pulaski, a third-grade teacher at Thaddeus Stevens Primary Center; and Kelly Glies of Neshannock Township, a second-grade teacher at West Side Primary Center — are the parents of children who lived outside the district but attended New Castle schools without paying tuition within the four-year period examined by the state.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • DougDanko.jpg Census shows county population getting older

    Lawrence County’s population continues to get older. However, it is not alone, as Pennsylvania overall is aging.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • backpackproject.jpg Councilman picks up tab to help lunch program

    Participants of a local summer feeding program are eating this week courtesy of New Castle City Councilman Tim Fulkerson. On Friday morning, the truck dispatched from New Castle to pick up about 3,500 pounds of items from the Pittsburgh Food Bank broke down as it arrived at its destination.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CRESTVIEW.jpg Outreach: Churches plan to host picnic for residents of Crestview Gardens

    Volunteers from several area churches are banding together in hopes of bringing peace to a troubled neighborhood.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Council OKs funds to remove dead trees

    New Castle City Council has approved spending funds from its contingency account to remove some trees at Darlington Park. Marshall Tree Experts of Ellwood City has given an estimate of $12,000 to remove the large elm trees from the Mahoningtown park.


    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • 12.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Night light

    The balloons may have been on the ground but spirits were soaring.


    July 25, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • StateFair.jpg 'State Fair' coming to Playhouse

    The fair is coming to town. No, not the Lawrence County Fair, although that is right around the corner. This is the Iowa State Fair, and it will be live on the stage of the New Castle Playhouse for three weeks, starting Friday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • accountant.jpg DeLorenzo’s status with authority unchanged

    Deno DeLorenzo’s status as a contract employee with the New Castle Sanitation Authority remains unchanged. Authority board members met with DeLorenzo last week regarding an investigation by the Lawrence County district attorney’s office involving Shenango Township funds.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Detroit area man dies in Ellwood City gunfire

    A triple shooting in an Ellwood City street has claimed the life of a Detroit area man. Gunfire erupted in the middle of Loop Street outside the Walnut Ridge housing project around 10:20 p.m. Sunday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Baptism1.jpg Dipped downtown

    John the Baptist identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ ” On Saturday, local evangelist Randy Crum once again took a cue from the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, eschewing the locusts and honey that John was known to munch on but heading out into the wilds to baptize believers and challenge them to share their faith with their community.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • lamancusa.jpg Tanner, district attorney: No comment

    The Lawrence County District Attorney is keeping mum about a probe into finances in Shenango Township. “We don’t talk about ongoing investigations,” Lamancusa said Friday.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo 5 Stories

House Ads

Do you talk to yourself when you're alone?

Yes, but I’m basically just thinking out loud.
No, that would be weird.
I don’t know. Next time I’m alone, I’ll ask.
     View Results