WESLACO — School board members here were expected to receive a rough draft of the district’s forensic audit Wednesday, just a day after voting to have the audit presented in open session and posted online — subject to any redactions made by the auditor — when the finalized version is ready in late July or early August.
The Weslaco Independent School District Board of Trustees selected Weaver and Tidwell L.L.P. in January and discussed its scope early the next month, expressing a desire for it to go back five years.
They also asked for the audit to investigate financial statements for local, state and federal dollars, construction expenditures, potential conflicts of interest, background searches on vendors, the efficiency of administrational communication and structure, and to conduct an inventory of district assets.
A Weaver representative said the audit would likely take at least two to three months to complete, half the amount of time the audit has actually taken.
“It was supposed to end after about six to eight weeks, and then it got extended and extended due to findings and investigations and whatnot,” Trustee Marcos De Los Santos said Tuesday. “Now we’re at that point from the last time that we met with Weaver that they said that they were stating that their report would be ready — or at least part one — would be ready at the end of July possibly, maybe beginning of August.”
De Los Santos was the audit’s most vocal advocate when it was launched. He requested Tuesday’s agenda item stipulating the audit be presented in open session and that the findings be posted online, saying taxpayers deserve to have the findings discussed in public and that how those findings are presented should be addressed proactively.
“Because in the past, when Weaver has done other school districts, I’ve seen that they’ve done it in open forum,” he said. “Of course, if there (are items) that are criminal, they’ll be redacted from the report, and those will be then up to the district to decide what they want to move forward with.”
The presentation of forensic audit findings have sent tremors through Rio Grande Valley school districts in the past. Notably, Weaver’s description of fiscal mismanagement and employee errors in a 2017 audit of the Donna Independent School District prompted the suspension of its superintendent and increased state oversight.
Despite being incomplete, there have already been tremors of change in the district preceding the findings of the Weslaco audit.
Days after the audit launched, Superintendent Priscilla Canales announced plans to retire at the end of the 2022 school year. In March, she escaped being suspended pending the results of the audit by a bare majority.
There have been signs of other administrative turnover at the district in the wake of the audit’s launch as well, and in the wake of the election of the primarily new board faction that spearheaded it.
In December, the board voted to end its contract with its general counsel of six years.
In May, the board approved a consultant contract that brought back long-time educator and former Superintendent Richard Rivera in a temporary administrative capacity, a move Canales said was necessary to address staffing shortages that had left the district “overloaded.”
Later in May, the district lost its athletic director, Oscar Riojas, who resigned after 22 years to pursue other career activities.
Canales told the board Tuesday that when the final draft is received, administration can set up a special board meeting for its presentation.
De Los Santos said he felt presenting those findings quickly would be important.
“Once they give us the call, we call a special board meeting — but I don’t want to have a meeting to have the meeting, because I think that whatever findings come out of that report, we can address it, take care of it and then we can move on and start the new school year,” he said.