Report on education efficiency audit taking longer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Another report concerning the state education efficiency audit is taking longer than expected.
The report from Vision Shared, the nonprofit that led forums throughout the summer to discuss the audit, isn't finished, said Vision Shared CEO Rebecca Randolph.
"I keep thinking this was going to move a lot faster than it has," Randolph said Tuesday in a phone interview.
In January, Public Works LLC released an audit of the state education system, commissioned by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin at a cost of $750,000. The audit included more than 50 recommendations Public Works believes could help the state education system run more smoothly and save close to $115 million over the course of five years.
Although some officials have discussed portions of the audit recommendations, there has been no formal response to the audit from any state education or legislative entity.
In late May, Tomblin announced the creation of eight community forums to be held during June and July throughout the state. Vision Shared and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce hosted the events.
"Business and community leaders, as well as every West Virginian concerned about our education system will have the opportunity to discuss how to best use this information as we strive to improve education in the state," Tomblin stated in the press release announcing the forums.
Tomblin went to the first forum in Elkins but did not stay for the entire event. At the fourth forum, held June 28 in Charleston, Hallie Mason, the governor's director of public policy, said the governor had not attended any forum in full. She wasn't sure if he planned to attend any future forums but said members of his staff would be present at each event.
Mason said the governor was waiting to hear from all parties involved before responding to the audit. Calls placed Tuesday to a Tomblin spokesperson were not returned.
The forums cost about $66,000, with about $43,000 of that amount going to Vision Shared. In June, Randolph said Vision Shared would compile a report of feelings or ideas expressed at the forums. The report will not be a direct response to the audit itself, she said Tuesday.
"We didn't feel as though it was our responsibility or maybe even our place to make recommendations," she said.
When the forums were first announced, Randolph said she thought the final report could be presented to the Vision Shared board during its September meeting.
The meeting was held, but Randolph said Tuesday the board did not see the final draft because it was not complete. She said Vision Shared is a small nonprofit with other focus areas in addition to the forum response, but the organization is working as quickly as it can to provide an accurate account of the events.
She said Vision Shared is working with Stone Strategies, the company that helped run the forums, to complete the report.
She hopes some response will be ready in the next several weeks. During a meeting last week of legislators tasked with addressing the audit, committee members said they would devote their entire October meeting to hearing from Vision Shared. Randolph said the report would "most likely" be ready by then.
The same committee has asked the state board of education to discuss its own response to the audit during a November meeting. The board met in March to discuss the audit but has yet to complete a final draft of its audit response.
A draft compiled by the department of education was spiked for alleged bias, and board member Lloyd Jackson — who is also a member of the Vision Shared board of directors — recently questioned "what the rush is" in the board responding.
In mid August the department hired Donna Peduto to help craft the response and serve as a liaison between the board and the department. Board President Wade Linger and Peduto are largely in charge of creating the final document. On Tuesday, Linger said work on the board's audit response would not be interrupted by any delay on the Vision Shared report.
"We still look forward to seeing their input, but the lack of it isn't slowing us down," Linger said.
The work on completing the report is going well, Linger said. He still didn't feel comfortable saying how much of the report has been completed, or when the report would be released. However, he reiterated that he would be able to speak with the legislative committee in November about the board's response.
Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@
dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.