Broken Arrow Schools Superintendent: We Must Move Forward

Thursday, September 2nd 2010, 11:50 am
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OKLAHOMA -- A school board resignation is the newest development in a controversy surrounding Broken Arrow Public Schools.

School board Terry Stoker resigned Thursday in protest over the delayed release of an investigative audit into the school district. The audit that was supposed to come out Thursday, September 2, 2010, but was pulled over concerns about its independence.

9/1/2010 Related Story: State Auditor Decides To Redo Broken Arrow School District Audit

After months of investigation, speculation, and allegations into his new district, Broken Arrow's school superintendent says the students are the ones who've been forgotten.

"I can count on two hands the people this is about. And it's about adults. It has nothing to do with kids," said Dr. Jarod Mendenhall.

One lawmaker says the auditor's investigation into Broken Arrow Schools does have to do with kids, specifically the money for their education.

"I am a legislator, I am overseeing the spending of money for the department of education. If they are wasting money in Broken Arrow, I certainly want to know," Representative Mike Reynolds, (R) Oklahoma City, said.

Reynolds is demanding the release of the audit that started 16 months ago.

It was supposed to investigate accusations that Broken Arrow School district gave a heating and cooling vendor Air Assurance preferential treatment. A claim Air Assurance denies.

A rough draft of the audit was leaked to the media last week.

"Part of that information was leaked out to the media, before it was supposed to. Boy, I'd have to question that," Mendenhall said.

And after questions were raised about the independence of the audit, the state auditor decided to shelve the document and start again with two new auditors.

That prompted Broken Arrow School Board member Terry Stover to resign Thursday. Stover said he'd lost faith in the process. He claimed state auditors changed the audit at the request of the school's attorneys and other board members.

In a statement, he said "too many dollars are going to district lawyers and not our district kids."

At this point, the superintendent, who's been on the job for less than two months, just wants to change the conversation.

"The thing that I hate the most about this is that ya'know we play Owasso Friday night. That's what I want to talk about," Mendenhall said.

Dr. Mendenhall said he knows this audit is important, but he wants to focus on healing his district and moving forward.

Although the first audit was shelved, there is a second one requested by the attorney general that's ongoing. The latest audit is not expected to take as long to complete.