Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Distrust Found in Special District Audit Says Board Needs Sensitivity Training

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Distrust Found in Special District Audit Says Board Needs Sensitivity Training

Article excerpt

The seven board members of the Special School District of St. Louis County should take sensitivity training and go on team-building retreats or workshops, a special management audit recommends.

After interviewing each board member, auditors found that members distrust one another and don't agree on whether the district should exist.

The report, made public recently, found that past actions of the board had created "the perception of distrust, back-door dealing and deception" in the eyes of district employees and the community. Board President Cindy Schrader said the advice "sounds great" in theory but adds she doesn't know if it will work for the board, which is divided into factions. Meetings are often marked by members snapping at each other. "I personally would be willing to try, but my gut feeling is it wouldn't produce anything," Schrader said. District officials say they are still poring over the lengthy management audit by KMPG Peat Marwick, which said the district could save $56 million over the next five years. Its budget is about $166 million a year. Member Patricia Presti said she strongly endorses the audit's recommendation that the board engage in team-building exercises. "I'm sure we've got some common ground," she said. "We've got to find it, and we've got to start trusting each other." Presti said she also hopes the Governing Council takes the audit recommendations and runs with them. The Governing Council was set up this year by the Legislature to oversee the district's finances and operations after complaints that the district is being mismanaged. "They've got a beautiful blueprint to straighten up this mess, and I hope they go for it," Presti said. The Peat Marwick audit says the district could save money by cutting jobs in transportation, food service, custodial and maintenance, as well as some in administration. The transportation department takes the biggest hit. The audit says the district should consider cutting 36 positions, which would save $1. …

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