Kailua High details changes since audit
But school officials acknowledge more needs to be done, in response to BOE questioning
Kailua High School officials say they tightened background checks of employees and financial oversight in response to the first-ever management audit of a Hawaii public school.
But Principal Francine Honda said Kailua High still has "a long way to go" to adjust to additional responsibilities required under a major school reform law passed three years ago.
Honda and school athletic director Mel Imai were questioned yesterday for two hours by the state Board of Education about the state auditor's report released in September.
It blasted the school's handling of its $10 million operations budget, saying investigators could not account for $1 million of the school's $2 million property inventory and $500,000 in equipment, including about $200,000 worth of electronics from the school's discontinued media center.
In its reply, the school explained the old and broken equipment was thrown away, but that staff failed to follow disposal rules. Kailua promised to update its inventory by summer 2008.
Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto acknowledged that inventory tracking is a systemwide problem. The state Department of Education wants to give schools relief by upgrading a Financial Management System, but Hamamoto said not enough state funds have been appropriated.
"We are making it a priority," she said.
State education officials have said issues found at Kailua are not unique. School administrators have been asking for more support since 2004, when a state law also known as the Reinventing Education Act gave principals more authority over their budgets.
Lawmakers this session approved $2.5 million for the department to hire 15 business managers to oversee school finances. Hamamoto expects to have the positions filled by years' end.
She said the Kailua audit was shared with other schools so they know what possible future auditors would be searching for. Honda said publicity about the audit's findings lowered staff morale and gave students the impression that "Kailua is not a good school."
Honda and Hamamoto also complained the audit looked at academic issues -- noting students were reading few books and taking cell phone calls during class -- when it was supposed to focus on finances and management.
Imai also disputed the audit's finding that the school hired a convicted murderer to serve as head coach for three months, noting that the volleyball coach was a volunteer for an independent group using high school facilities during the summer. He noted the school now requires fingerprinting of all athletic employees.
Board member Donna Ikeda called the academic portions of the report "grossly unfair" and said she would seek an answer from the office of state auditor Marion Higa.
Higa could not be reached for comment.