Report Finds Litany Of Financial, Management, Pest Issues With Murphy Schools

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 5:47pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 6:03pm
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
Two students were reportedly bitten by rats at Garcia, part of the Murphy Elementary School District.

After years of problematic financial records in the Murphy Elementary School District in South Phoenix, the state ordered a receiver take over and investigate.

The state appointed Simon Consulting as Murphy schools' receiver in June. The company took over all financial, administrative and operational duties for the district.

Since then, the receiver has essentially cleaned house by reducing staff, stipends, vendor contracts and cell phones in an effort to balance the district’s books.

The report, embedded below, has a factual timeline of how leadership changes led to large pay raises for leadership when class sizes were growing. Then, the district overspent its budget by more than $10,000, which was one step toward the state putting the district into receivership.

The report also details: large stipends for vehicle use, regardless of whether the employee's job required them to use a personal car between schools; unaccountable travel expenses that paid an overly-large, flat fee before expenses were made, rather than expensed for the exact cost of trip; and a costly HVAC repair vendor contract that was rarely utilized.

The receiver forced all of those to be changed, and cutting the HVAC contract to do in-house repairs created an $85,000 savings for the 2018-2019 budget.

It’s not only financial: all four schools had evidence of black mold, which has since been tested for. One school also was infested with rodents, leading to two students getting bit by rats. Pest control measures were taken.

Professional sports teams like the Arizona Cardinals also stopped donating tickets to the district because Cardinals staff found they were being resold online, or not distributed equally.

The receiver has the power to override all governing board or superintendent decisions, and has requested to keep it that way. The superintendent, Dennis Goodwin, has been chosen to lead the district as the receiver makes changes, and comes from the Camp Verde School District. An administrative assistant position was also filled by a former Camp Verde employee. The receiver also hired a business manager, which didn't exist previously, who used to work at the Tolleson Elementary School District.

The receiver hopes for the district budget to break even in two years. Meanwhile, the district and receiver will look into whether the Murphy Education and Health community Center, which provides dental and medical services, is able to operate independently with its own finances. If not, they will "evaluate options to address the issue."

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