In a scathing report released Thursday, Pennsylvania's Auditor General said the Susquehanna Township School District is in peril because of "extreme dysfunction" among district leaders.
Of course, ABC27 viewers don't need an official report when they've seen our reports chronicling the bitterness, in-fighting and spats between the school board and the superintendent. Adults behaving badly has been a recurring theme at Susquehanna Township SD.
"What is the real priority of any school district?" DePasquale asked. "It's to be educating the children and we believe strongly that that focus was lost by the adults in this district over the last several years."
Specifically, auditors found that the back-and-forth lawsuits have run up more than $200,000 in legal fees.
"Their legal bills this fiscal year were more than the school district spent on their entire summer school program in 2012-13," DePasquale said.
The audit found much more:
Was that program effective?
"Without a contract and without appropriate board oversight we can't give you a square answer as to whether they got their money's worth because there was no oversight," Depasquale said.
The report also criticizes the contract for former Superintendent Susan Kegerise. He blasted the board for agreeing to language that limited its ability to publicly criticize her.
"Why a school board would agree to provisions in the contract to limit their ability to provide appropriate oversight is beyond imagination."
The contract also explicitly said the board must act "professionally."
"The idea that adults need to have that in a contract, everybody that was part of that should be embarrassed," DePasquale said.
Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York) attended Thursday's press conference with DePasquale.
"Over the last year two years, neighbors on both sides of us have left," Teplitz said. "I don't think it's because I'm a state senator. I think it's because of the district."
Teplitz represents, lives in, and has two kids in Susquehanna Township schools and says he's seen the lack of leadership. Though the Auditor General's report didn't mention Shawn Sharkey, the assistant principal accused of having sex with a student, Teplitz connects those dots.
"Worrying about protecting adults instead of protecting children, I think, was a result of the dysfunction that existed at the time."
District spokeswoman Susan Anthony released this statement Thursday afternoon:
"In response to the release of a Performance Audit Report and morning press conference by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, the Susquehanna Township School District Board of School Directors and Acting Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Miller will be reviewing the full report and recommendations. While some recommendations have already been addressed, other recommendations will involve discussion and subsequent plans of action. The board will formally respond to the report, and at this time, thanks the Auditor General’s office for its work on behalf of students, staff, parents and taxpayers of Susquehanna Township School District."
The Auditor General made 38 recommendations on how the district can fix itself. It is routine for the Auditor General to audit school districts. Typically, the office issues a press release and the infractions, if any, are minor and quickly corrected. DePasquale said the problems are so severe at Susquehanna Township that he called a press conference for emphasis.
"When you behave, and the behavior's such as this, the appropriate level of public pressure is important to make sure the necessary change happens," DePasquale said.