Podcast: Bergosh floored by Pell Grant $500K blunder

School Desk
On Wednesday, we reported that the Escambia County School District had mishandled Pell Grant disbursements and will have to pay back to the U.S. Department of Education $506,456.

School Board member Jeff Bergosh said that he knew about the audit, but had been told the reimbursement wouldn’t be too much. Then he saw the agenda for next week’s board meeting.

“We got an initial report back in late January and we thought we’ll see what shakes out, but this new number that came in just floored me,” said Bergosh on “Pensacola Speaks.” “It just showed up on the agenda with no forewarning. Yeah, it was a big number, big number.”

Bergosh went on to say that the school district knew of issues at George Stone Area Vocational Technical Center three years ago. District auditors had recommended several changes a year before the federal auditors reviewed the program.

“It was actually in June of 2012, that’s when the report was concluded,” he said. “We had a turnover change with the principal and then we had some key employees, one key employee that left that had a lot of corporate knowledge, and when that person left, the program fell into a state of disarray. To their credit, George Stone reached out for help from the school boards auditing team, and they went out there and they said, ‘Here’s what you need to do to get this thing back on track.’ They had a seven or eight point brief that they issued in June of 2012.”

Bergosh was upset that those recommendations apparently weren’t implemented.

He said, “My concern as a board member is–did we follow with fidelity all those recommendations? If we would have–because it appears now that we didn’t–, would we not have faced such a significant sanction from the feds? This new audit–that we’re going to pay a half a million on, Rick,– it covers the period from July of 2013 to June of 2014, so after the report was issued by the (ECSD) auditing team.”