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Auditors question $14,500 in credit card spending at Sophie B. Wright

Sophie B. Wright Charter School couldn’t provide supporting documentation for about $14,500 in credit card charges last fiscal year, according to auditors, but the school principal said most of that spending has since been accounted for.

Auditors pointed out flaws in the school’s credit card policy:

  • School employees extensively used five credit cards without prior approval in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.

  • Charter School Director Sharon Clark reviews and authorizes payment of credit card charges each month, but no one reviews her credit card usage.

The school also didn’t reconcile its financial records in a timely manner, and some entries in the accounting system were inaccurate, according to the audit by Silva Gurtner & Abney.

Auditors cited Sophie B. Wright for untimely recordkeeping the prior fiscal year, too. The school added new finance staff in 2012 and 2013 to deal with the problems.

The audit, dated Dec. 30 and released by the state auditor’s office Jan. 15, doesn’t mention the dollar amounts in question, but Clark said Monday that auditors took issue with $14,566 that school employees couldn’t find documents for.

The school has since located documentation for $12,900 of those charges, Clark said. That includes about $11,000 to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority for student bus tokens and $1,800 to Office Depot for supplies.

That leaves about $1,600 in unaccounted spending.

Clark said some of the financial records weren’t accurate or reconciled because prior staffers made mistakes and used different accounting software. Current staff went back to correct some of them.

To address the credit card issues, auditors recommended that the school require pre-approval of employees’ credit card usage, hold onto cards while employees aren’t using them and consider spending limits.

A board member should review Clark’s charges, auditors said.

In response to the audit, the school said it had hired Cynthia Grace of Grace Consulting to help the school get its finances in order. The board president will also monitor the school’s corrective action plan.

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • nickelndime

    REWIND: Sharon Clark was on the public payroll as an administrator in the NOPS during the pre-Katrina years when many inappropriate financial acts occurred. Cynthia Grace was formerly (F-O-R-M-E-R-L-Y) employed by the OPSB, and now she is employed as oversight for Wright. OMG! OMG! I have fallen off of my chair. LOL.

  • Trevton Brown

    I understand that in one semester there has been a turn over of at least 12 staff persons at Sophie B. Wright. I think someone will find even more mis-management on many accounts if they look deeper. Many persons resigned their positions because of the foul things going on. The article never said that the auditors reconciled the funds, it states that the Principal said that documentation has been located… ok SMH.

  • nickelndime

    Clark’s salary as a NOPS administrator was excessive way-back-when, years before Katrina, but as a charter school CEO she has been given unlimited (and basically unmonitored) control over finances, personnel, etc. Where do these charter boards, like Wright, get off giving these people credit cards on the public’s dollar?!! Now the Wright board has hired another fox to watch the other fox. And they feel like they are actually doing something worthwhile?Individuals with specific inside information on these charters and their boards need to relate (communicate) with some outside monitors/regulators, i.e., the FBI. Certainly not the charter boards (thgis is a waste of time) and certainly not the businesses that profit from charter boards’ and school administrators’ missteps (including audit firms, law firms, etc.). This is not ignorance. It involves larceny, theft, fraud, misappropriation…

  • NolaGirl

    Sharon Clark is doing what she wants with public funds, and her friendship with the RSD Superintendent is allowing it to continue. It is said that this is being allowed to continue after everything the school system in New Orleans has been through. Smh

  • Chrissy Stills

    NolaGirl, You sure are disgruntled!! Poor thing . Dang! Sorry your life sucks and I’m sure spreading lies make you feel better. I have noticed your name on other posts- always negative and condemning . Sad people like you live to destroy others. Sad! And you and Trevton Brown are two peas in a pod- inside information yeah right , LMAO! Get a job!!!

  • nickelndime

    In The Times-Picayune 2009 article of “Skyrocketing Salaries of Principals and Assistant Principals,” Sharon Clark’s salary was $91,350 (#32). Was Sharon that good 5 years ago (and counting), or was she that bad (as in, it’s good to be bad?) Not bad, huh? Now, personally, fiscally, academically, and otherwise, I would not call NolaGirl and Trevton Brown disgruntled. But that’s just me. I see something else.

  • Anclark

    I agree NolaGirl, as a parent whose child went to Sophie B Wright, and still waiting on money for graduation fees for a child that did not participate in graduation! Not to mention, that year the pol did not have a prom, and she told the students they had to pay for their own prom! Really? Who does this to students?

  • Alice Cooper

    Nickelndime makes a valid assessment of the situation. I think that’s the reason for silence from many employees and former employees. Who really cares?

  • nickelndime

    Thanks, Alice (your middle name wouldn’t happen to be “Killer,” would it?) Cooper. Yes, the silence is deafening; the apathy, unspeakable. Even after CEOs jerk employees around, still not a sound. Boards don’t want to hear the truth. I doubt if any of these board members have even read the charters upon which the operating agreements are based. There are over 40 “nonprofit”(well, that’s a bad joke right there) charter boards that are supposed to provide oversight for public charter schools according to Louisiana Charter School Law. Basically, no one from the public shows up at board meetings. For some weird and illogical reasons, which I do not understand or agree with, these charter boards act as though the CEOs (glorified principals) have all the power, and not the boards. No one can give answers to the simplest questions. They all look like the cat that just swallowed the bird, with feathers all over the place.