State Auditor To Investigate Chickasha Public Schools
CHICKASHA, Oklahoma - Following a verified citizen’s petition, gathering 1,223 signatures, Oklahoma State Auditor Gary Jones is set to investigate Chickasha Public Schools.
The petition cites possible misuse of public funds, a review of technology-related purchases, a review of actual days worked, attendance records involving the high school’s Student Personalized Learning Campus (SPLC), double-dipping by the former superintendent and other administrators related to SPLC contracts, and nepotism between the former superintendent and family members.
For months, News 9 has covered the controversy in Chickasha. In December, five staff members were suspended from the district. Two have returned to work, one has resigned and other cases are pending.
Most were originally investigated on claims of embezzlement; one failed to report the abuse of a special needs student.
So far, no public evidence presented to News 9 has proved those claims.
Parents and many others became concerned, and say at first the suspensions seemed random. Upon father inquiry, they believe the employees were suspended for speaking out about a newer curriculum, the above mentioned SPLC.
“I have fears that it was pushed under the rug by Chickasha Public Schools, the administrator and possibly higher up. Just seems like we asked a lot of questions and we received no answers,” said Ruth Bingham who helped create the approved petition.
So, they asked the state to investigate.
Petitioners had 30 days to gather 819 signatures, and easily passed that.
“Obviously, when they get to that point, they are very concerned. If they are willing to go out and gather signatures it shows extreme concern,” said State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones.
SPLC was brought to Chickasha about two years ago. Many believe the program has merit and helps children to learn at their own pace. However, they say it was implemented incorrectly and without the proper oversight. Adding, not only has the superintendent taken a leave of absence, so has the high school principal.
Meanwhile, documents revealed during staff suspension hearings, caused civilian petitioners to push harder.
“The attorney tried to bring out some of the grade changes, and the attendance changes, that they have found and we have copies of, over 100 changes were made,” Bingham said.
Petitioners say those changes were made to make SPLC appear more successful.
In the next four to six months, the state auditor will begin his own investigation.
It will cost the district $50,000-$75,000.
“We will be gathering all the records, and during the course of us doing that audit, if we discover anything else we will be looking at that as well,” Jones said.
Problem is, that's on top of another forensic audit, already requested by representatives of the school district. Citizens worry the previous inside appointment could lead to bias.
“If it were me I would ask the school board to resend their contract with the forensic audit firm, go with the state auditor and be done,” Bingham said.
The State Department of Education is also investigating Chickasha schools, but says it’s too early to comment on their case.
You might have noticed there is no comment from Chickasha Public Schools. For weeks, News 9 called the district, but they’ve refused to answer any questions.
SEE BELOW: Parents have provided contracts involving the school, as well as the petition submitted to the State Auditor’s Office.