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Clayton schools to let go of internal auditor

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The internal auditor hired earlier this year to help Clayton County Public Schools meet one of its mandates for regaining accreditation, is one of the 19 administrators who will be let go under a plan developed by Interim Superintendent Valya Lee.

The contract of Director of Internal Audits John Pitts is one Lee decided to not renew for the 2009-2010 school year.

Faced with $23 million in reduced state funding, mostly due to a loss of more than 3,000 students, Lee plans to reduce expenses at the district's highest levels through the non-renewal of five contracts, and the elimination of 14 positions through a reduction in force. The school board approved Lee's plan at its March 30 work session.

Pitts' position will not be eliminated because of its significance in the effort to regain accreditation, said school board Chairperson Alieka Anderson.

"Because it is a position that we were told we had to fill by SACS in order to get our accreditation back, it will continue to exist," Anderson said.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will send a review team to the district next week to evaluate progress, and to determine whether the Clayton County school system's accreditation should be restored.

The internal auditor position was created at the recommendation of forensic auditors who looked into the school system last year to help the district meet one of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' nine mandates for improvement.

The accrediting agency's fifth mandate called on the school system to have an independent accounting firm conduct a forensic audit of the district's finances. The audit was completed last summer, and submitted to SACS officials in July.

But, a month later, a review team from the accrediting agency told the school district all of the recommendations in the audit had to be implemented in order to meet the mandate. Among the recommendations were calls for an audit of the district's transportation department, and the creation of an internal auditor position to ensure the system's money was accounted for at all times.

Pitts conducted the transportation department audit in October, according to the school system's March 13 report to SACS. The school board approved the creation of the director of internal audits position last fall.

Former Superintendent John Thompson recommended Pitts become the district's internal auditor on Jan. 5, and the school board approved the recommendation by a 6-3 vote. Thompson was fired March 14 by the school board.

Interim Superintendent Lee could not be reached for comment, and school board Chairperson Anderson declined to answer questions about why Pitts' contract was not renewed.

Reached by phone Monday, Pitts declined to comment. He will remain with the school system until June 30, the end of the current fiscal year, school officials said in a written statement.

As part of Lee's plan, contracts were not renewed for several other administrators hired by Thompson, including former Deputy Superintendent Judith Simmons, former Chief Human Resources Officer Larry Conner, former Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese, and former Chief Operations Officer Joseph Jones.

School system General Counsel Julie Lewis, also hired by Thompson, left the district March 31, when her position was eliminated through the reduction in force.