Collaboration in Civic Spheres

State audit dings Sunnyside schools for poor alt ed scrutiny

by John Stang September 11th, 2012

The Sunnyside school district in Yakima County was wrongly paid $213,110 because it misreported the number of students in a home-based computer learning program, a recent state audit said.

The Washington State Auditor’s Office reported that the district counted 19 too many full-time equivalent students – translating to 95 “student months” – in its Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program from November 2010 to March 2011. The Sunnyside district reported 552 ALE student months in the 2010-11 school year, or the equivalent of slightly more than 69 year-long students in the program. The program provides online education for students not best served in traditional settings.

Other deficiencies included inadequate ALE class rosters; uncertified staff approving one student’s learning plan; insufficient documentation showing required weekly contacts between students and program staff; six students making unsatisfactory progress; some classes not having syllabuses; and no signed parental agreements for seven students.

The Sunnyside district hired a private company, The American Academy (TAA), to run the program and did not adequately monitor the contract, the audit report said.

The report included a school district reply that said: “We agree that TAA did not comply with all of the paperwork set forth by the state legislators and (Office of Superintendent Public instruction) for ALE reporting. The district is working with TAA to make sure these requirements are met for future reporting. The district reported to OSPI those students that completed classes in the TAA program for reimbursement and therefore feel that we shouldn’t be monetarily impacted for paper work issues that can be corrected.”

The state paid the Sunnyside district $294,615 for ALE students in 2010-11, of which the auditor’s office said irregularities caused $213,110 not to be confirmable for the state’s records.The district’s 2010-11 budget was $63.4 million.

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The East Valley school district, also in Yakima County, was dinged for similar problems in a July state auditor’s report – improperly collecting $66,717 in state money for an Alternative Learning Experience program that had inadequate monitoring and financial controls.


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