State audit reveals ‘critical’ errors in educational programs at North Lawrence Career Center

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BEDFORD, Ind. -- Parents in one school district are shocked after an audit revealed uncertified teachers and the misuse of $450,000. Two administrators are on paid leave at the North Lawrence Career Center as a state investigation continues.

The report indicates eight findings in which school officials indicated were "critical" and those officials said those errors were no mistake.

Some of the findings include teachers that were not certified to teach specific skilled coursework, students getting grades for classes they didn't actually take, and a total of $450,000 in misused funds.

The Indiana Department of Education conducted the audit after concerns were brought to North Lawrence Community School Superintendent Gary Conner. Conner said he contacted the DOE in December and when he found out additional concerns he said "a snowball turned into a avalanche."

Nearly 700 students attend the career center. The audit found about 42 of the students were reportedly enrolled in Interdisciplinary Cooperative Education courses (ICE) did not actually attend classes in which they were receiving grades. It also noted those same students were reported to be attending worksites associated with the ICE program, but there was no evidence of them actually being there.

The audit also cites discrepancies in how federal grant funds were used, including gaming equipment, hotel fees and yearbooks.

"It should have never become a reality and I'm very troubled that it was," said Conner.

Career Center Director Glenn Weil and counselor Kim Magness are both on paid administrative leave.

The trade center has become a community staple, educating students on manufacturing skills for trade jobs that are crucial to Indiana's economy.

"Once those students are trained, they're likely to stay and there's a real emphasis on manufacturing positions," said Communications Consultant for North Lawrence Community Schools Donna Petraits.
Noted in the audit are corrective measures that must take place at the career center, including paying back more than $450,000 to the state for having un-certified teachers and other critical errors.
Conner said he's working to figure out a way to pay that within the 90-day deadline.
"This corporation is not a robust corporation, financially and that money is going to have to be reimbursed through the corporation, through out funds here," Conner said.
Parents and taxpayers said they hope they won't be charged with paying for the mistakes of a few administrators.
"We live paycheck to paycheck, so we already struggle paying for two different book rentals each year," one woman said.
Conner said he wants to assure parents that students transcripts and future careers and educational endeavors won't be jeopardized.
"I never want to put or kids or place our kids in a position where they are at risk. Our kids are most important treasures for this community," said Conner.
The audit is being sent to local prosecutors offices as well as the attorney general for possible criminal charges. Conner said if that happens and the judicial process allows, the district will ask for restitution for the $450,000.
Click here for a copy of the full audit.

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