School official criticizes audit

A $167,000 audit of the Richmond County school system contained bad grammar, bad math and bad information, according to a report released by a school official Thursday.

The MGT of America audit, which was completed in March, criticized the school system's transportation department for buses that were half full and for its assistant director driving bus routes, among other things.

But Transportation Director Michael Shinn refuted the accuracy of some of the audit's findings Thursday during a presentation to the school system's transportation council, an advisory committee of school officials, parents and community members.

Mr. Shinn said he fully supports the goals of the audit, although he questions some of the facts its recommendations are based upon.

"Overall, it's a good concept, but there were some errors," he said after the meeting, adding that auditors only spoke with him for an hour before making their assessments. He never saw the audit before it was finalized.

Mr. Shinn, for instance, isn't sure where MGT got the idea that Assistant Director Jimmie Wiley drives buses 14 hours a week to fill in for absent drivers.

The audit recommended saving money by hiring two full-time substitute drivers instead of allowing administrators to drive. Mr. Shinn said Mr. Wiley doesn't drive buses, and his department already has 22 full-time substitute drivers.

He also questioned the accuracy of the audit's claim that buses are half full. According to the audit, a random sampling of 18 buses found that on average they were underutilized by 807 students, or 54.2 percent.

The audit's figures, however, were based on manufacturer recommendations for how many children can fit on a bus, Mr. Shinn said, and those recommendations aren't realistic.

"We want to fill up our buses to a reasonable amount," he said.

Three older students in one seat isn't a reasonable amount, Mr. Shinn said.

Despite the discrepancies, Mr. Shinn said he supports Superintendent Dana Bedden and restructuring the transportation department.

"We'll implement all the MGT suggestions, but we will include the information as we get it as well," he said.

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