City school board approves annual audit

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton Board of Education named a new chairman and approved its annual audit of the system at Thursday's board meeting.
   The audit, presented by Bob Rodefer of the Rodefer & Moss firm in Greeneville, reported finding "no reportable conditions" in the report on compliance and internal control over financial reporting.
   The audit also reported no instance of noncompliance material to the financial statements of the board were disclosed during the audit.
   Board members did question statements in some areas of the audit including the federal projects fund where actual revenues fell $75,000 under budgeted revenues of $1.276 million.
   "We didn't spend (all) that," said Cynthia Roberts, director of business management for ECS. "We had some carryover, and we budgeted for the full amount."
   Roberts also advised the board the county government had been notified to turn over their bond proceeds earmarked for the city school system as soon as possible.
   Assistant Director Rondald Taylor also discussed the system's Report Card 2002 results, pointing out that the city system's scores bested the state averages by at least one letter grade almost across the board.
   "A lot of things happen over the course of the school year that can impact that," said Taylor.
   Taylor also played down the system's lackluster value-added scores in grades K-5.
   Academic achievement scores test where the students stand before they enter school, and the value-added assessment grades how well the school has helped students improve.
   ECS saw most of their 2002 subjects remain unchanged from last year's grades except in reading for K-5 students where the grade dropped from a "B" last year to a "D" this year. Elementary level students also saw value-added scores fall in science from a "B" in 2001 to a "C" in 2002 while the language arts grade remained unchanged with an "F".
   "Most of our problems come at the fourth-grade level," said Taylor. "We can't figure out what is wrong in the fourth grade."
   Taylor claimed one possible explanation was students who achieved high achievement scores hit a ceiling that negatively affected the value-added grade.
   Students in grades 6-8 posted scores rated above the state's average in four subjects and exemplary in two subjects. Those students also posted exemplary scores in the valued-added grades in five of the six subjects.
   Dr. Robert Sams was also elected chairman of the board over the next two years.
   Judy Richardson nominated Sams to succeed sitting Chairman Dr. Jonathan Bremer who had served as chairman since 2000.
   Catherine Wooten Armstrong subsequently nominated Richardson to become vice-chairman, which she won with 4-0 approval by the board.
   In other business, the system heard from Darrel Hurlbut, performance assurance specialist with Johnson Controls regarding the system's status in energy savings.
   ECS entered into a 10-year contract with the company in 1999. Company officials projected with the conversions of various energy sources throughout the schools, the system would save approximately $665,000 -- or $66,500 annually -- in energy costs over the life of the contract.
   Hurlbut said through three quarters of 2002, the system had realized $49,104 in savings.
   "This is good," Hurlbut told the board. "It means we are meeting our savings requirements. It is not as good as we did last year, but it's good."
   The cost savings are based on actual utility bills for electricity and natural gas use taken from all five city schools, said Hurlbut.
   Natural gas pricing was of particular concern, said Hurlbut.
   "We can't control the price of gas, but we try to control the amount of gas being used at the schools," he said.