Monday, May 7, 2012

(San Diego) Grand jury suggests school foundation audits

Written by Aaron Burgin

11:32 a.m., May 7, 2012

San Diego schools need to keep better tabs on the parent-based foundations that raise money for them, the San Diego County Grand Jury says in a new report.

Fundraising foundations have proliferated during the economic downturn as a way for parents and benefactors to raise money for their ailing schools.

The grand jury recommends that the San Diego Unified School District review and audit schools at least once per school year for compliance.

The four-page report from the grand jury, a panel of citizens that monitors local governments, is based on one school foundation in the district that did not have its nonprofit paperwork in order. The report does not identify the school.

Schools activist Sally Smith told The Watchdog that she filed the complaint that led to the grand jury report, and it was about Creative Performing Media Arts Middle School’s foundation.

At the time she filed the complaint, Smith said the foundation called itself a nonprofit on its website even though it had yet to receive federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

Principal Scott Thomason said that when the grand jury approached the school and foundation last year, officials believed it was registered as a nonprofit. They discovered, however, that a previous board never completed the process.

Once they discovered this, Thomason said, the group took down any reference on its website to being a nonprofit and hired an attorney to assist with the registration process.

“The grand jury actually did us a favor by pointing out paperwork is not in order,” Thomason said. “We immediately began getting things in line so that we are totally aboveboard.”

The district declined to issue a response for this story, saying it will wait until its official response is released, around Aug. 1.

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