Leaders await audit results

Light could soon be shed on the claims of nepotism, wasteful spending and a top-heavy central office that have plagued the Richmond County school system for years.

An extensive audit, a cornerstone of Superintendent Dana Bedden's reform efforts, will be delivered to school board members Thursday.

When he signed his contract last summer, Dr. Bedden took on a mandate to reform a school system whose image had suffered from low-performing schools, discipline problems and safety issues.

Since August, he has undertaken efforts to hold teachers, principals and central office staff accountable; implemented a program of continually monitoring student progress; and defused a series of bomb threats that had interrupted schools. But more substantial changes will come about from the audit, he expects.

The MGT of America performance management review that began in November audited the finances, academics, human resources and operations of the school system. It also compared Richmond County to similar school systems.

Persuading the board to invest $167,000 in the audit was a politically astute move on Dr. Bedden's part, said Richard Harrison, the dean of Augusta State University's College of Education. The move provides leverage in convincing board members to accept changes.

"If you don't intend to listen to them, then why bring them in?" the dean said Dr. Bedden could ask board members.

Board members are eager to see the audit because it will provide a direction for the school system.

Thursday "can't get here for fast enough for us to look at it," board member Venus Cain said. She said she is confident it will outline what the board needs to do and how to do it.

Board member Helen Minchew said the audit was approved with the intention that action be taken.

"We have no intention of letting it sit," she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT

A public meeting has been called for 5 p.m. Thursday at the board's central offices, 864 Broad St., to discuss the results of the schools audit.