Heritage House situation can be fixed
By Joe B. Coates
The disagreement between the Heritage House program administrators and the Hazlehurst City School Board over the way funds from a grant specifically for the program have been disbursed is dramatic, but the situation is not uncorrectable.
The school board voted to cease disbursing monies from the grant for the Heritage House program not of their own volition, but at the request of the Mississippi Department of Education. A recent routine audit of the administration of the grant funds performed by the department revealed that documentation requirements of some aspects of the program had not been met within a certain time frame. The audit also found that certain students who were not qualified to be served by the grant were being allowed to participate. Therefore, teachers and adminstrators were being paid for work done with unqualified participants. The board also requested that all guidelines within the grant be adhered to directly and that the board be kept up to speed with activities within the program. The board felt that their requests were not being met, either. So, within the rules, the MDE and the school board acted accordingly.
Does that make those involved with the programs at the Heritage House feel any better? Asolutely not. The employees and adminstrators of the Heritage House have a legitimate argument that they are owed good money for time worked in November. Parents of children involved in the program, and other interested parties, have their own good argument, too, that the program is working and affecting the students in a highly positive way.
Caught in the middle are the children being served…again. No one is at fault and everyone is at fault.
Nothing can happen until the lines of communication among all parties are opened again, and nothing needs to happen until every penny spent and for what purpose is accounted for and documented. And strict adherence to the guidelines of the $850,000 grant must be achieved and maintained from all sides once the program is re-started.
It’s a shame for the students–who were those meant to be served by the grant funds–that they must hang in limbo until all sides can get everything straightened out.