The Milton School Board is ready to put the past behind it, and we hope it’s learned some lessons from past mistakes.
With new interim superintendent Richard Dahman at the helm, the board has an opportunity to build consensus on issues that previously divided it. A lack of trust between the previous administration and some board members sparked several controversies, most recently over how the district manages so-called stipends.
An accounting firm reviewed the district’s 19 stipend accounts and reported this week that nothing is amiss. Indeed, the Milton School District uses this pool of funds like every other district, according to Wendi Unger of Baker Tilly. “There was nothing I noted that was unusual or unexpected,” she told the board.
But lest anyone forget the impetus for the accounting firm’s review of 19 stipend accounts, it’s a stretch to think everything was hunky-dory in the district’s handling of these funds over the last few years. After all, the board called on Baker Tilly to examine the books after learning some administrators received bonuses (“stipends”) without seeking permission from the full school board.
Is it any wonder former Superintendent Tim Schigur and former Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz resigned?
School Board President Joe Martin seems to want a fresh start for the district. He said this week, “We will continue to be frugal and very aware for the voters and taxpayers.”
Fortunately, the past ordeals didn’t involve the new interim superintendent, and Dahman has no reason to fear so long as he understands that hiding financial transactions from taxpayers is not in his or the district’s best interest.
At the same time, Dahman cannot afford to be naive about the situation he’s entered. The board’s handling of the stipend scandal damaged trust within the community.
Dahman must be deliberate in his interactions with the board, erring on the side of transparency whenever concerns about district finances arise.
For their part, critics should give Dahman a chance—prod him toward being transparent but don’t make him an enemy. Work with him and take advantage of the fresh start created with the new administration.
As for the board, certain members must stop treating critics like nonentities. Credible complaints must be taken seriously, and the board should work with Dahman and the public to address them.