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Dorchester Charter School Must Improve Oversight Of Its Spending, State Auditor Says

This article is more than 1 year old.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump says the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter School in Dorchester needs to improve its financial oversight policies. The agency found in an audit released Monday several instances of questionable spending at the school.

"Our audit found numerous instances where funds that should have been used to support the education of students were not properly safeguarded," said Bump in a written statement.

According to the report, the school paid for $126,333 of poorly documented or unallowable credit card transactions between 2014 and 2017. The audit also cited an incident in which the school's former executive director, Karmala Sherwood, used school funds to make a personal mortgage payment. Sherwood told state officials that happened by accident, but, the report said, she did not reimburse the state until the summer of 2017.

The agency also called Sherwood's salary and health benefits package "excessive." The report says the school's board of trustees also improperly gave her a roughly $100,000 payout of unused sick time when she retired last year.

Auditors said the school should develop and implement monitoring controls for credit card usage and improve training on state financial reporting requirements, among other recommendations.

Officials with the school did not return a request for comment Monday.

The Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy opened in Dorchester in 2003. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education renewed the school's charter in February, but the department placed it under probation due to issues with financial oversight and poor academic performance.

This audit is the latest state probe into the school's finances. The Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General recently wrapped up a separate investigation into the former executive director's compensation package and sick leave payout.

Carrie Jung Twitter Reporter, Edify
Carrie is a senior education reporter with Edify.

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