The Challenges of Maintaining Public Trust in School Districts

Weaver can help your district get ahead of the game on maintaining public trust.

School districts have recently been the targets of large-scale cheating scandals and financial frauds. One district engineered a widespread cheating scandal to avoid state and federal accountability standards, followed by a diploma mill fueled by creating bogus class credits.  Other districts were hit with multimillion dollar financial fraud schemes, shaking the districts to their core and demoralizing district employees. 

There is an incredible amount of time and energy that goes into the primary mission of educating children. So often times, the risk of any possible fraudulent conduct can be easily overlooked. Developing and encouraging an ethical culture may be the best defense and, by far, the best course of action.

School districts are under intense pressure to maintain public trust and cultivate ethical environments built on integrity and confidence.  That includes the responsibility of ensuring that public funds are secure and used to provide top quality public education for future generations. Those responsibilities and pressures can be daunting, especially when combined with maintaining the day-to-day operations during a school year.  

Taking the lead on building a solid compliance and ethics program that is instilled as part of the education of district employees and is monitored can put a district way ahead of the game. Not only is the district being proactive in deterring potential fraud or corruption, but it is also building an environment that demonstrates intolerance for such behavior. This is an environment that builds the public trust and facilitates a district’s primary goal of educating children.   

A solid compliance and ethics program should be designed based on a balance of factors to include the vulnerabilities of the district, the levels of risk, and the size and budget of the district.   The success of the program is largely influenced by setting standards, training employees, and monitoring compliance.  The training should include district wide training not only on compliance and ethics, but fraud prevention awareness as well.  Monitoring the program is another key component that often falls by the way side after considerable effort has been made on the front end to define and implement standards subject to the compliance program.  Focused data analytics can identify suspicious trends or problem areas and help with the monitoring efforts.

In crafting a solution to the compliance and ethics dilemma, districts should seek a partner with experience working with districts to provide not only compliance and ethics training, but also fraud prevention awareness training. This training allows district employees to become its best source for identifying signs of fraud or corruption.  It is equally important to work with professionals who have worked with districts investigating fraud and corruption and can uncover and identify those involved in such activity, so they can be removed from the environment and held accountable.  Most importantly, these actions can facilitate restoring the district’s ethical culture and pride among its teachers, employees, parents and students.  Partnering with firm like Weaver who is experienced in school district compliance and investigations to build a proactive compliance program will get your district ahead of the game when it comes to maintaining public trust.

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