Las Vegas Sun

August 31, 2014

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District will pay the price for error

Having discovered more than $5 million in overpayments to Edison Schools Inc., the Clark County School District went looking for a refund.

But after determining it shared responsibility for the error, the School District is expecting to write off as much as $1.6 million.

The mistake goes back four years, nearly to the start of Edison's contract to operate seven Clark County schools. Edison used an incorrect base amount in a complicated calculation that determined how much money the company would receive under the state's per-pupil formula, said Keith Howard, assistant superintendent of finance for the district.

The district didn't catch the oversight until this year, as it reviewed Edison's five-year contract, which expires in June.

"Because we worked on it together and the math is reviewed by both parties, you can't point fingers at one or the other," Howard said. "This is a misinterpretation, a miscommunication that should have gotten cleared up a long time ago."

While a $5 million error is not small, it is if compared to the $68 million mistake the district made last year in submitting its biennial budget to the Legislature.

The district noticed the clerical error in its paperwork in time for the Senate Finance Committee to add the overlooked funds to the public schools budget.

Details of the new Edison contract are being worked out. Edison is expected to continue managing six elementary schools - Cahlan, Crestwood, Lincoln, Lynch and Ronnow. It will no longer operate West Middle School.

While some horse owners in rural Henderson say a new elementary school will threaten their animals, the School District's facilities chief views it as an opportunity for one heck of a show-and-tell.

"I hope some of the owners will be willing to come in and talk to our students about horses, why they're so special and deserve respect," said Paul Gerner, associate superintendent of facilities for the district. "Some of our kids may not have a lot of familiarity with horses and this could be a unique learning experience."

The Henderson City Council approved plans for Smalley Elementary School, to open for the 2007-08 academic year. Some residents of Paradise Hills opposed the project being built in their rural neighborhood, which is zoned for extra protection against development.

To seal the deal, the School District agreed to send letters home to parents reminding them to warn their children to keep away from horses corralled on private property near the school. An equestrian path, which the district agreed to build, will be separated from the school by fencing and landscaping.

The district also has agreed to contribute toward any costs associated with temporary relocation of horses if they are spooked by the construction.

Consultants auditing the School District will hold a second round of public meetings Tuesday, collecting kudos, complaints and suggestions for improvements.

The $300,000 audit, the second ordered by the state Legislature in two years, is being conducted by MGT of America. The Florida-based company has more than 30 years' experience auditing school district operations.

Area residents are invited to visit between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at one of five locations: Greer Education Center, 2832 E. Flamingo Road; Green Valley High School, 460 N. Arroyo Grande Blvd.; Bunker Elementary School, 6350 Peak Drive; Derfelt Elementary School, 1900 S. Lisa Lane; and Elizondo Elementary School, 4865 Goldfield St., North Las Vegas.

The audit is expected to take six months, with a report before the start of the 2007 legislative session.

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