It’s easy to be in compliance with policy and directives for recruiting, hiring and compensating personnel when you have policies that lack any teeth.
Those are the findings of a recently completed audit of Kansas City, KS, Public Schools.
The scope given the auditors, Corporate Integrity Systems, was to “audit the KCKPS administration’s compliance and implementation of Board adopted policies related to the recruitment, hiring, and assignment of compensation for administrative positions that are director level and above.”
Board members were concerned about how high-level administrators in the district were being recruited, hired, promoted and compensated. It turns out they had plenty of reason to be concerned. It appears former superintendent Cynthia Lane was wheeling and dealing with very little control or policies guiding her actions. The lack of policies to guide her acts is what allowed her actions, however horrific they were, to be in compliance.
If the district’s policies give you the right to do whatever you like, then you’re in compliance with the district’s policies.
Here are just a few of the examples of actions taken by the superintendent that were within the district’s very weak policies:
The superintendent routinely transferred employees into new positions without posting the positions. As an example of the superintendent’s unfettered authority related to recruitment and the lack of a policy that requires positions to be posted, in April 2017, Dr. Lane submitted an agenda item to the board on the consent agenda for approval of $10,000 to be paid to an employee as a “supplement for additional job responsibilities as Resource Development Officer.” When the consultant requested from human resource the personnel file of the Resource Development Officer, the human resources team was unaware that such a position existed.
Instead of Dr. Lane requesting that a new position be posted for all qualified applicants to apply, she sought board approval not for a new position, but for supplemental pay for a position that did not exist.
She was able to get away with this because the board’s policy says the board approves the hiring of employees, not the transfer of an employee into a newly created or vacant position. The superintendent merely had to inform the board of any assignment, transfer, and/or demotion and Supt. Lane took full advantage of that loophole. But it was a practice that led to complaints of unfairness and unlawful discrimination in the hiring process.
A former human resources employee said the superintendent regularly used the practice of assigning additional duties and pay and/or salary corrections to give pay increases to certain employees, most notably when the board put a freeze on salary increases. In late 2015, many employees at the director level and above received five-figure “salary corrections.” The Asst. Dir. Of Finance received a salary correction of $13,841.36 and the Asst. Director of Purchasing received a salary correction of $22,803.20, just to name a few.
The consultants’ review of the files for the 63 administrative and above positions being looked at under the audit found:
•Only 44% of the employees’ files included evidence of an application for the employees’ current positions.
•Only 54% of the personnel files reviewed contained evidence of a criminal background check.
•15 had no evidence of an I-9 being completed and 22 had evidence of incomplete I-9s. By law, I-9s must be complete and kept for three years after an employee’s separation.
•None of the personnel files contained evidence of a performance evaluation.
The auditors concluded the KCKPS Board gave too much authority to the superintendent related to hiring, recruitment, compensation, transfers and assignment of additional job duties to the point that it conflicted with the board’s ability to govern the district.
“The board should ensure through board policies that KCKPS is following all laws related to recruitment, hiring, and compensation, as well as guidelines provided by the Board,” wrote the auditor. The Board’s authority to govern KCKPS must be taken from the superintendent and given back to the Board.”
The auditor when on to propose a customized plan of action. Hopefully, it’s something the board and the new superintendent will follow.
Lane was appointed USD 500 superintendent in 2010 and named Kansas Superintendent of the Year in 2015. On the occasion of her retirement in 2018, KSHB TV Kansas City said, “Lane has been a steady hand in a district that thrives on stability.”