State audit highlights flaws it finds at Park City School District
The Office of the Legislative Auditor General didn’t pull punches in its Systematic Performance Audit of the Park City School District.
The full report — which contains more than 100 pages of findings, documents and letters — is divided into five chapters, each outlining a specific area in which the school district can improve: environmental regulations compliance, construction regulations compliance, increased accountability for groups of students underperforming, better strategic planning and better utilization of student analytics.
Many of the specific recommendations for the school district involve tighter internal controls, increased oversight and better project management.
All in all, the report lists 18 distinct recommendations for how the district can improve.
According to Heidi Matthews, a spokesperson for the school district, the audit’s criticisms did not blindside the district.
“Their findings are not surprising,” she said. “The intent of the audit was to look for areas of improvement. It’s not balanced out with celebration.”
She said the district now plans to acknowledge the audit’s findings and work to improve shortcomings.
Gap in Test Scores
According to the report, Park City School District has fallen short in making an effort to help students on the margins of its student population.
“Park City School District … had the third highest average proficiency rate among Utah school districts in 2022,” the audit reads. “This performance overshadows the lower performance of more disadvantaged students in the district.”
The report specifies that the district had 12 groups of students that qualified under federal requirements for additional assistance. Students in these groups reportedly perform “as low as the bottom five percent of schools,” while the district’s student body as a whole excels.
“The district reports providing interventions for underperforming students,” the report reads. “However, it can provide better oversight of these groups for improvement. We recommend that PCSD do more to oversee and hold schools accountable for performance of these underperforming student groups and consider opting into state programs.”
Another section of the audit explains how the district did not follow all necessary regulatory steps before beginning recent construction projects which led to “delays and additional costs.”
The forgone yet required processes include coordination with Summit County, meeting county requirements before beginning construction and following Utah State Board of Education requirements.
“The district’s insufficient internal controls and oversight as well as previously unenforced local and state requirements contributed to the district’s noncompliance,” the report reads. It recommends the district “undergo a thorough review of compliance risk” before adopting internal controls to prevent the issue in the future.
According to the report, the school district created “unauthorized waste piles of contaminated soil that may cost millions of dollars to be removed.”
The piles sit on the grounds of Treasure Mountain Junior High and might leave the district subject to “possible regulatory action under state law, federal rules, and municipal soils ordinance provisions.”
The audit provides a timeline leading up to the incident that shows that in 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered “contaminated soil at Treasure Mountain.” In 2016, the agency placed the area under federal jurisdiction and completed a cleanup and in 2017, the district imposed “an environmental covenant on the Treasure Mountain Junior High property,” which it filed with Summit County. Then, in 2018, the district relocated soil to the grounds, creating unauthorized solid waste piles on land under federal jurisdiction. In 2022, they excavated land next to the waste and later learned “they may be noncompliant with the covenant and state solid waste laws.”
“A breakdown in governance resulted in the district excavating contaminated soil and other materials and creating unauthorized solid waste piles,” the report states. “PCSD administration reports they were unaware of certain environmental regulations at the time the soil and other materials were relocated.”
A statement released by Park City School District officials says they recognize “that there is always work to be done and improvements to be made.”
The Wasatch County Council is considering an ordinance that would update how a private individual can obtain a permit to plow seasonal county roads.
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