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Concerned community interrupts Milwaukee Public School meeting

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The Milwaukee Public School Board of School Directors had difficulty conducting its normal business last night as parents and community members demanded answers following the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s threat to pull funding for missing financial documents.

School Board President Marva Herndon frequently called the meeting into recess to try to quell angry remarks from those in the room demanding answers before moving into a closed, executive session. The board has scheduled a special meeting on Monday which lists actions related to Superintendent Keith Posley.

On Thursday, Posley’s introduction of the finance department was met with boos and jeers from the crowd who talked over Martha Kreitzman, the district’s chief financial officer. She was joined by Joshua Benson, an accountant for the city of Milwaukee to discuss the board approving revenue anticipation notes.

The board voted 5-1 to allow the city to borrow revenue anticipation notes on its behalf. The city proposed the measure, saying it would provide a funding stopgap on behalf of the school district “in the event that there is a liquidity need,” Benson said.

“So if we need extra money to make payroll, to pay teachers before receiving state aid or other types of revenue taxes, this would provide the authority for the city to do that borrowing on your behalf and then you would repay the borrowing as it comes due,” Benson told directors.

That vote comes after the state’s department of education told the school it may have its funding withheld because it failed to provide a number of financial documents, some of which were required to be submitted last fall.

After the vote, Superintendent Posley was booed during his presentation. Herndon called a recess during his presentation before he was able to finish up.

“Address the community who have questions,” someone in the audience yelled after Posley was done speaking. “What the h— is wrong with you people?”

Herndon replied that the meeting is on Monday evening. The woman shouted back, and Herndon asked security to remove her.

After another interruption-created recess, Matt Chason, a senior director from the office of accountability and efficiency, said the seriousness of the communication from the state’s education department “cannot be overstated.”

“It has shattered the public’s confidence in the oversight of the district’s financial operations,” Chason said. “That is unacceptable. This needs to be restored so that we have public trust in the stewardship of public dollars.”

“As such, we are engaging in moving to retain an external financial professional with the expertise to assist in navigating the district’s current challenges in financial reporting,” Chason said.

“In collaboration with the DPI and the district’s external auditor, we will identify and remove any roadblocks that have led to this condition,” Chason said. “And a corrective plan will be developed and implemented to satisfy any remaining concerns by DPI.”

The sole business item for that special meeting is “consideration of, and possible action on, employment, compensation, and performance evaluation data relative to the superintendent of schools,” according to an agenda posted on the district’s website.

The DPI’s threat to withhold funds came as the district was already considering a plan to lay off hundreds of teachers, according to reporting from The Center Square. (Like Chalkboard News, The Center Square is owned and operated by the Franklin News Foundation.)

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