State of Arkansas Takes Over Small Rural School District After Finding Audit Violations

The state of Arkansas has taken over a small rural school district after finding audit violations and unallowable expenses, reports WREG News Channel 3.

A review of the Earle School District by the Arkansas Department of Education found almost $2 million in misuse of state and federal funds starting in the 2015-16 school year and continuing into the current school year.

District Superintendent Rickey Nicks has resigned and the state has named a replacement who has been affiliated with the school improvement unit of the Arkansas Department of Education. School board members will remain in place to serve as advisers.

Last month, the state classified the school district as being in fiscal distress and the district did not appeal.

Violations included poor fiscal management procedures, inaccurate fund balances, nonpayment to vendors, outstanding debts, issues with payroll and failure to follow state guidance on correcting problems.

Apart from the fiscal issues, the state found violations involving student transcripts, teacher assignments and special education teacher certification.

Located 28 miles west of Memphis in Crittenden County, the Earle School District has only one elementary school and one high school.

In an application for federal grants for the high school several years ago, the district noted high poverty rates in Earle. The application also said that only 69.2 percent of people age 25 or over have graduated from high school and that only 12.8 percent of those individuals have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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