School committee investigates finance department

[CREDIT: WPS]    The Warwick School Committee is investigating its finance department after reports of alleged supply, policy and procedural issues.
[CREDIT: WPS] The Warwick School Committee is investigating its finance department after reports of alleged supply, policy and procedural issues.

UPDATE, JULY 23: Warwick Public Schools has since posted the approved trustee post at their meeting on Wednesday. The job posting on Schoolspring.com describes the duties of the new administrator as “responsible for the development, direction, coordination and evaluation of orientation, health services, attendance, English as a second language, speech and language, occupational and physical therapy, and special education programs throughout the district.

The job description matches that of Director of Special Education Jennifer Connolly, who recently resigned to take on a new position.

School council chair Judy Cobden did not return the call seeking comment on the new administrator. Member David Testa replied that he would not comment on “personnel matters” and member Karen Bachus said she had not been told what the new administrator would be doing.

ORIGINAL POSITION: WARWICK, RI — The Warwick Public Schools Finance Department is under investigation after numerous allegations of procurement, policy and procedural issues, with a search for an interim administrator underway.

It was unclear on Tuesday where the acting administrator would be employed, or whether the search was related to the investigation. An unrelated vacancy recently materialized with the resignation of Jennifer Connolly, Director of Special Education. Members of the school committee did not discuss where the acting administrator would be needed.

The school committee authorized the search for an interim administrator at its meeting on Tuesday, when it also announced the investigation. The Committee’s agenda raised questions over the weekend on social media about what the Committee might be about to investigate.

Robert Baxter, the director of finance and operations, was absent from last week’s school committee meeting as the committee approved the $193.2 million budget for FY22. He was not either no longer present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Baxter has been in charge of the finance department since December, when he took over as chief financial officer following the retirement of former director Anthony Ferrucci.

The school board hired the law firm Barton Gillman to investigate the allegations. District legal counsel Andrew Henneous recommended Barton Gilman for the investigation into the allegations, which had come to the attention of Superintendent Lynn Dambruch. Barton Gillman has already performed an audit for the school department.

“We don’t know their accuracy, we don’t know their veracity, we don’t know their extent,” Henneous said of the finance department allegations. “They deserve an investigation.”

Committee chair Judy Cobden did not return messages seeking further comment on the situation Tuesday evening.

Connolly changes resignation date

In independent news, the committee approved the review of the resignation of Jennifer Connolly, director of special education. Connolly’s last day will be July 28, two days earlier than planned.

“She has brought many wonderful programs to our district for special education students and teachers and has truly made a positive difference at Warwick,” Dambruch said.

Member Karen Bachus said she saw a “tremendous amount of professional growth” at Connolly.

“I will really miss her,” Bachus added. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for this neighborhood.”

Comments are closed.