The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will have its first board meeting of the year this Thursday, Jan. 18. Highlighted on the agenda’s docket include Early Learning Pathway, the ongoing Vasquez conflict of interest investigation, as well as financial audits:

Early Learning Pathway

The Board will receive one of two annual updates on its Early Learning Pathway program that prepares students for academic success at a very early age.

According to the presentation, the district has had an interest in early learning for years but 2012 study suggested “the initial data revealed surprising findings, such as the number of children who were not on track for kindergarten,” said the report.

“As a result, multiple steps were taken, including the launch of an early learning pathways concept in SMMUSD; the Cradle to Career Initiative made kindergarten readiness a key goal area; and, in collaboration with the Santa Monica Early Childhood Task Force, a Building Blocks for Kindergarten Workgroup was formed to turn data into action.”

Over the last few years, the SMMUSD was granted a two year grant from the Reissa Foundation which was used to assist in early learning programs via a five goal program. Currently, the goals are being met, and the SMMUSD will be proposing further focus on their current programs as well as “plans for continued vertical alignment and program expansion.

Review of Conflict of Interest Investigation

Staff will provide an update on an ongoing investigation into conflict of interest accusations.

SMMUSD board member Maria Leon-Vasquez is under fire for casting votes that could have financially benefited her husband — Santa Monica councilman Tony Vasquez.

These votes could violate state conflict of interest laws.

In a story last year, Vasquez told the Daily Press that his wife “didn’t even know she was voting on these things,” remarking that the consent calendars given at city council are “pretty thick,” insinuating she hadn’t knowingly voted to aid his business.

“Concerns about conflict issues were recently raised that the school board and district administration take very seriously,” said the agenda.

“The district launched an internal investigation into these concerns with the support of legal counsel, Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost, and will report the results to the Board of Education at this meeting. This summary reflects the findings of the investigation and recommendations. Next steps will also be discussed. In order to avoid actual or perceived conflicts in the future and to continue to ensure the public’s trust is earned and maintained, additional direction to conduct further review of board policies and regulations and training for board members and senior staff will be discussed.”

Annual Financial Audit Report

The Board of Education has completed its annual audit. There were no audit findings, however, the audit firm feels there’s room “for strengthening internal controls and operating efficiency”.

The following recommendations represent conditions noted by the audit.

  1. Evaluate projects on a comprehensive basis prior to issuing requests for proposals, qualifications, quotes, or services. The scope of work should not significantly change, otherwise, a new request should be generated rather than issuing multiple change orders, which bypass the required detailed selection process.
  2. All bids for future projects must be received at the Districts office and not received by the consultant. Segregation of duties should be paramount.
  3. Human resources department to obtain and retain personnel file documents as noted on internal checklists, such as W-4’s and pay rate and benefit changes.
  4. Human resources department to monitor the change register report on a frequent, periodic basis, preferably every pay period.
  5. To clean HRS system for jobs classifications and codes, in order for payroll department to avoid issuing one time pays checks.

A representative from the auditing firm, Moss, Levy and Hartzheim LLP, will be available at the meeting to answer questions.

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