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Former City Schools board president clears air about 'making assumptions'

By Joanne Beck

Following her assumption that city school district residents may be holding the board responsible for a state audit citing missing equipment and unnecessary spending, former Board of Education President Alice Benedict wanted to clear the air Monday.

While she reads district policies, she may not read every policy, Benedict said, but more to the point, she thought the district was on top of equipment inventories and related service fees.

“I thought the district was keeping track … and then we found out that it wasn’t,” Benedict said during the board’s meeting at Batavia High School. “I think there are some things in the district that we are making assumptions about. It was assumptions I made that it was being taken care of.”

Superintendent Jason Smith had previously issued a press release listing the state

Comptroller's findings, including nearly 300 pieces of technology equipment that were missing or otherwise unaccounted for, and a related $17,000 service fee paid for those items. 

She didn’t want any one board member to feel it was his or her fault, Benedict said.

Board President John Marucci, along with Smith, answered questions from The Batavian that were published earlier Monday. Marucci pointed to his comments in that article about feeling disappointed in the findings and encouraged by Smith's response.

“I was not happy with it at all,” Marucci said.

He also said that he has the “utmost faith” in Smith and district staff to take the appropriate corrective measures to stop this type of thing from happening again.

Smith said that systems are in place and that by working with a third-party consultant, the district is developing a plan of action to remedy those procedures that either were not in place or fell through the cracks, especially during personnel changeovers and COVID protocols.

The consultant — Webster-Szanyi law firm — was selected out of five proposals at a net cost of $8,753.13 to the district after BOCES aid was deducted. The Batavian submitted a question to Smith about the total aid received.

The law firm is providing the district with two educational consultants who specialize in school technology service reviews, Smith said. Work has already begun, and is to be finished by January, he said.

Here is the prior announcement about the audit from Smith.

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