CUSD talks back to grand jury

In a draft of its response to the 2004-05 Butte County Grand Jury, the Chico Unified School District takes issue with some recommendations, ignores others and goes along with the rest.

School board President Rick Anderson said the 15-page document trustees were to review at their Sept. 21 meeting is only a staff draft, and the board is “ultimately responsible” for submitting the official response.

The grand jury’s report, released July 8, stated that schools have been illegally charging students for class materials and gym uniforms, student body funds are poorly accounted for and the district was egotistical and inconsistent in demoting Marsh Junior High School Principal Jeff Sloan.

If the response stands as is, the district will, among other things:

• Deny that students were ever required to buy P.E. uniforms, pay course fees or otherwise donate to schools, but acknowledge that some parents may have been confused about it.

• Move to a more uniform accounting system, independent of the grand jury’s investigation.

• Continue to withhold diplomas and report students to collection agencies in some cases when students damage district property or refuse to pay authorized fees.

• Disagree with the grand jury’s finding that it was inconsistent in applying the accounting rules it cited when demoting Sloan.

• Maintain that Sloan did personally benefit when “unauthorized expenditures were represented as made from the principal’s personal funds, thereby gaining favor with students, teachers and parents.”

• Refuse to retract allegations against Sloan.

Anderson said the district is leaning heavily on the advice of school finance rules experts Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).

“Our goal is to make sure every student at Chico Unified receives a high-quality education and they do that within the spirit of the law that [says] education is free,” he said.