Along with most other Boston Public Schools, the Eliot K-8 School in Boston’s North End has been cited for several inadequacies in the recording and tracking of student activity funds as part a citywide audit, performed by Ernst & Young and publicly released on August 31, 2018. Mayor Walsh requested the review after the IRS fined the city relating to the BPS reporting problems it found.
In the Eliot School review, the EY auditors said they were only able to look at bank statements and cash ledgers because though “receipts for all school years were maintained; however, they were lost during a move in fall 2017 … ledger documentation was also lost during the move and as a result was not available for the school years under review.” The Eliot has had a Citizens bank account since 2007 now totaling $6,080. The accounts holds cash from fundraisers such as Crazy Hair Day, Hop-A-Thons and from school uniform sales and photography commissions from Bailey’s (20%).
Eliot Principal Traci Walker Griffith acknowledged the audit results and issued the following statement in an email newsletter.
“At the Eliot, we welcomed, participated and were responsive to the audit, and we take its findings seriously. Please know that the Eliot K-8 Innovation School follows written procedures for handling fiscal transactions that were made available to the audit team. We are committed to fostering and maintaining an environment of transparency and open communication.” –Eliot School Principal Traci Walker Griffith
Student activity bank accounts are kept at each school to manage funds for socials, special events, field trips, clubs, athletics and miscellaneous activities. Funds are supposed to be received and expended by school officials solely for the benefit of students, not to compensate school staff or city personnel for out of classroom activities.
EY auditors also reported a bank account with $93,215 segregated for the Eliot’s Italian Program, funded by a grant from C.A.S.IT, a local Italian-American non-profit organization.
The largest account listed in the audit was that of the Friends of the Eliot School, a 501c3 non-profit corporation, that was reorganized in December 2017 to replace the Eliot School Parents / Family Council. Auditors reported that “projected revenue from July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 was $350,000.” Eliot’s principal addressed this in her newsletter statement, noting an upcoming audit in the coming months.
“As you know, the bulk of our family and community fundraising is driven through our separately incorporated Friends of the Eliot School 501c3. The Friends of the Eliot School is an independent entity from the Boston Public Schools with its own Board of Directors. It will undergo its own annual audit this fall with an independent firm.” –Eliot School Principal Traci Walker Griffith
The former Parents Council included 6 Eliot School staff members on its 14 member board. Funds raised are used for Art, Theater, Italian, Physical Education, Robotics and Woodworking & Bookbinding classes. The reorganized Friends group does not have any BPS staff members.
E&Y spent three to five days at each school for their review. Details on those reports can be found online. One citywide change is that all BPS schools will now use a master bank account for student activity funds so that funds can be distributed using the city’s payment system to ensure proper reporting. In addition, schools will no longer be allowed to use ATM cards for related accounts.
Disclosure: I am not a parent nor member of the Friends of the Eliot (formerly the Eliot School Parents Council), but I have donated to the non-profit group’s 501(c)3.