Auditor General releases report on school board

Superintendent says issues already being addressed

A new audit suggests the South Shore Regional School Board needs to report on more common goals for education, according to a February 25 report from Auditor General Michael Pickup.

It specifically examined the South Shore Regional School Board, saying in 2013-14, both it and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board had business plan priorities which were not all student-focused, and that made it, “difficult to assess whether each board is fulfilling its mandate.”

Both plans did include targets for improved education results.

The audit also pointed out the Department of Education provides business plan and annual report guidance to school boards that “generally captures key components of accountability reporting.”

The report recommended the department improve this accountability guidance provided to school boards by requiring each board to report on common goals in education, such as student achievement. It has already agreed to do so.

In addition, the department is currently reviewing and revising its guidance to reflect the direction of the Education Action Plan, which includes, “measures to be used to assess student performance within, and across, boards,” according to the report.

That is expected to promote better accountability reporting.

The report includes work completed in the financial audit portfolio of the auditor general’s office during 2014. The information submitted to the audit was from 2013 to 2014.

Geoff Cainen joined the South Shore Regional School Board as superintendent of schools in August, 2013. He, along with a new board elected in November 2012, were not involved in the development of the business plan under consideration.

“The board was very clear that they wanted a new business plan and a new strategic plan, so those are the first things we put in place,” said Mr. Cainen in response to the release of the audit.

“When we put the strategic plan in place, some of the by-products of that would have been things like school public accountability and reporting out to the public.”

He said many of the South Shore Regional School Board’s business plans and accounting procedures have changed since the year the audit examined.

The purpose of the audit was to examine public reporting by comparing reported results to specific, measurable outcomes. It studied whether there was sufficient information to assess if mandates were achieved, not whether they were actually achieved.

The office of the auditor general will follow up on the implementation status of their recommendations in two years.

The audit was selected as part of the office of the auditor general’s three-year audit plan.

Michael Pickup was appointed as auditor general last April.

School boards are required to develop business plans via the Education Act. Though these must be submitted, they do not have to be approved.

“The big thing for me,” said Mr. Cainen. “Is moving forward in terms of public accountability and reporting out about our progress.”

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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