By Denise Dick
The city schools treasurer has been placed on paid administrative leave through the remainder of his contract, and the district will hire an interim treasurer while a new national search is conducted to find a replacement.
William Johnson’s contract expires July 31, and he already had announced plans to retire then.
The action came from the district’s Academic Distress Commission at a meeting Thursday.
Commission Chairwoman Adrienne O’Neill said she couldn’t comment about the reasons Johnson was placed on leave, but during the meeting there was much discussion about the student count and the district’s five-year forecast, which Johnson prepares.
The commission had passed a resolution earlier this year allowing the district to increase class sizes after a larger-than- anticipated drop in enrollment resulted in what at the time was a loss of $4 million from the state.
Since then, the enrollment has been shown to be higher than what was thought, so the district is expected to receive more than what it thought at the time of the commission’s vote. The money from the state is about $1 million — not $4 million — less than what had been projected.
“We’re not going to pass any more resolutions having to do with class size or anything based on the forecast,” O’Neill said, adding that it isn’t accurate.
Johnson said he reported information to the board that was accurate at the time based on the student count by the district’s data department.
“It was my duty to report what was happening,” he said.
The data department is charged with the student count, which involves establishing where students who live within the district actually attend school. It’s a complicated process that also involves the charter schools, vouchers, open enrollment and transient students, Johnson said.
O’Neill, though, said she was “disturbed” that the commission took action based on information that was incorrect.
“We took action based on the forecast that said there was a $4 million deficit,” she said. “Now there isn’t.”
Johnson left the meeting before the action to place him on leave and couldn’t be reached.
Because he already had announced his plans to retire, the school board, through the Ohio School Boards Association, conducted a search and narrowed the applicants to four finalists.
They are the treasurer/chief financial officer of the Massillon City Schools; assistant treasurer of East Cleveland City Schools; Youngstown schools’ federal, state and local grants manager; and the former treasurer/CFO of Madison Local Schools.
Lock P. Beachum Sr., board president, last month asked the commission for a recommendation on choosing a new treasurer.
O’Neill declined to comment Thursday about whether the decision to conduct a national search meant commission members were dissatisfied with the four finalists.
An interim treasurer will be hired to work on a per diem basis until a permanent treasurer is appointed.