Shelby County Schools board members debated the need for stronger accountability measures for tracking equipment and property that belongs to the district during Wednesday’s special called meeting.

Last year, Maryland-based ProBar conducted the first equipment inventory in 30 years for both legacy Memphis City and legacy Shelby County districts. Probar reported 54,272 pieces of equipment–including computers and vehicles–were missing.

By March of this year, Shelby County Schools principals and staff had located 30,837 pieces of that equipment.

Board member David Pickler Wednesday called the district’s method for tracking items ‘broken’ and that a strong message needed to be sent to the community that the district would be good stewards of tax payer’s money.

Administrators said Wednesday that some equipment is still unaccounted for but couldn’t specify how much.  Most of those items were missing from 17 schools and nine buildings that aren’t schools.

“The district has allowed tax payer property to go through a sieve,” he said.  “And we need to bring in an outside team, with fresh eyes- a blue ribbon task force and with experience in financial asset control.”

Board member Teresa Jones didn’t think it was necessary to bring in an outside company, but that it was important to stop the blame game and focus on fixing the problem.  David Reaves added that the district needed to lock down the escape of equipment.

“We can do that through our one employee (Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II) and through policy, but our enforcement needs some teeth,” Reaves said.

Chairman Kevin Woods suggested what the ‘teeth’ could include.

Something may need to go in an employee’s personnel file showing they don’t manage property well,” said Woods, who also asked internal audit director Melvin Burgess about whose responsible for tracking the district’s new computers for the blended learning and cameras used in the classroom. 

Burgess told board members that there’s a shared accountability between school administrators and his office.

Pickler said such an arrangement could be the problem.

When accountability is shared, it becomes easy to point the finger,” Pickler said. “This is bigger than audit department, we need real policy reform.”

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said the district will conduct a wholesale review of its tracking system, determine which processes should be reworked and seek guidance from the business company on best practices.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at tcheshier@chalkbeat.org and (901) 730-4013.

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