DOJ: CPA's "Walking School Bus" program has hired people with criminal records to accompany children to school


CINCINNATI – Cincinnati public schools have not properly managed the grants awarded to its "Walking School Bus" program, according to an audit released Thursday by the US Department of Justice. The audit indicates that this mismanagement has led the program manager to increase his salary and hire people with criminal backgrounds to drive primary school children to and from school.

The 60-page audit details what the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice described as mismanagement, resulting in inappropriate spending of federal grant funds and potential security threats. primary schoolchildren.

The district participated in the federally funded pedestrian school bus program. The Justice Bureau's National Institute of Justice awarded the school district nearly $ 5 million in grants to pilot the program for three years between 2015 and 2017. The program ran for nearly half that time. In March 2016, federal grant managers became aware of some emerging issues. These concerns interrupted the program and launched a series of investigations that culminated in the Inspector General's audit released this week.

The SPC had raised approximately $ 760,000 in reimbursed costs from the federal government – and spent an additional $ 600,000 – for the program when it was put on hold. The federal government has not repaid any additional funds spent after the initial $ 760,000 repayment.

The district implemented the program in eight schools during its approximately 18 months of activity.

Allegations of mismanagement of the audit span the gamut. The most serious charge is that the contractor hired to manage the program hired at least one person previously charged with endangering children and another who was previously charged with drug trafficking within 1,000 feet of the drug. school. The program manager also revised the budget to increase their salary by $ 98,290.

CPC spokesperson Lauren Worley said in a statement Thursday that "there is no evidence that students participating in the school bus program are concerned about their safety and that there is no reason why nor has any evidence of a child injured during this program ". She added that the district "did not agree with many of the findings of the GM", but added that the district had responded to the agency's request for information and took measures to "improve the financial management of subsidies".

"The safety of our students is our paramount concern," said Worley.

Read the full audit report in the viewer below.

Leaky background check and training for "conductors"

Of the 63 people hired as "walking school bus orchestra conductors", one of them had already been charged with drug trafficking within a 1,000-mile radius. meters, while the other had already been accused of corruption of another drug and endangering children.

"These two people worked for the program (Walking School Bus) and took the kids to school for 10 months and four months, respectively," according to the audit.

A dozen people hired had previously been charged with domestic violence, conspiracy to distribute firearms, violation of probation and persistent disorderly conduct, among other things, said the police. ;audit. The audit also revealed that six other individuals had been hired without proper criminal record checks.

The audit also revealed a lack of documentation that would indicate what would constitute a "clean" audit of an applicant's background.

"Although we have not identified specific cases of harm to children, lack of supervision in this area is important," says the audit.

The audit also revealed that the program did not provide the team leaders hired with adequate operational and procedural training, "which not only increased the risk of programmatic failure, but also compromised the safety of schoolchildren participating in the program. grant".

Failure to report "undesirable incidents"

The audit describes six incidents that could have compromised student safety but, according to the report, there was insufficient communication and resolution:

  • A conductor testified that, as part of the "Walking School" program, he helped the police identify a prostitution ring.
  • A conductor stated that while driving students to school, they cleaned needles in the neighborhood.
  • The audit found information that conductors and students encountered stray dogs on their way to school.
  • Some conductors would have taken the students to school without the consent of their parents.
  • A conductor reportedly threatened to discipline a student.
  • Two conductors lost electronic tablets containing information about students.
  • The audit also details the theft of 57 computers in a SPC building – computers purchased with a grant. Citing security concerns for students' personal information, the GM urged the district to inform the families involved in the program. In its response to a draft audit (these responses are included in the final audit published this week), the district stated that personal information was stored on a cloud server and not on stolen machines .

    The program manager did not properly report these incidents to the school district, according to the audit.

    The boss organized a salary increase

    The audit contains a detailed list of the different ways in which the School Bus program budget has been revised as it has been implemented, including increasing the Program Manager's salary by more than $ 98,000. The manager also increased the salaries of other high-level program staff and added another senior executive position, the audit said, for an additional $ 200,000 in budget revisions.

    The manager also approved an additional $ 29,000 in audio-visual equipment, including tablets, smart TVs, projectors, and video cameras.

    Budget reductions included the remuneration of orchestra conductors and the almost total elimination of funding for a data coordination staff member. The final program budget also included less than half of the $ 155,000 originally allocated for training development, community engagement, and district-wide events.

    The audit concluded that CPS did not provide adequate oversight of budget management.

    Walking to school as a student of the CPS

    The audit by the Department of Justice highlighted another potential risk for CPA students when they went to school. Although the pedestrian school bus program ceased operations in 2016, this week's audit followed a recent increase in pedestrian safety concerns around elementary and district high schools, which had gained momentum at the end of last year.

    In December 2018, the district made the headlines after

    the drivers hit more than a dozen students from the district while they were going to school

    in one semester. The majority of these accidents occurred around West Side schools in the district, including Western Hills University and Gilbert A. Dater High Schools, located on Ferguson Road in West Price Hill.

    In the first months of 2019, the district worked with the city and with Duke Energy to begin implementing infrastructure and lighting improvements around several SPC campuses.

    DOJ Audit of CPA's Pedestrian School Bus Program


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