Individual school accounts under scrutiny

The Syracuse City School Board's Audit Committee met Wednesday to discuss individual school accounts. The accounts have come under scrutiny, after an internal audit uncovered, an apparent mishandling of funds, by Laura Vieira-Suarez while she was principal of Fowler High School. The school board is looking for more over site on such accounts and will soon vote on the issue. On Wednesday, members are hearing from those who would be impacted. The money from the accounts is supposed to be used to benefit students. Whether the money is used for an activity, or to cover a youngster who can't afford to pay for a field trip, the money is used at the discretion of the principal. The audit committee heard from two current and one former principal on Wednesday. They all said principals need to have immediate access to the funds to deal with situations that arise. They do support establishing a policy that clearly states how the accounts should be used and includes over site.

"The one thing we're just hoping, is the school administrators and building facilitators still have some flexibility in having access to the funds," Brian Nolan, Director of High Schools for the district and a former principal.

The money for the individual school accounts comes from the Pepsi vending machines in the schools. The schools get a commission from the sales. The school board is looking at imposing tighter control on such accounts."What we want to do is provide assurance that we have the proper controls around the accounts," Says Joe Rufo, the district's chief financial officer.

The board had a policy the accounts could have as much as $7,500. That will probably be reduced. The school board could even chose to do away with the individual school accounts. Until the issue is voted on, principals can no longer just write a check, they have to get district approval.