Owatonna School Board Audit Review

Dennis Hoogeveen of Clifton Larson Allen praises the Owatonna School District for having a “clean” audit report for the annual review. (Emily Kahnke/southerminn.com)

The Owatonna School District was commended during Monday night’s school board meeting for having no compliance issues during the annual audit results report.

Dennis Hoogeveen with Clifton Larson Allen presented the auditing report for the Owatonna School District. In the five aspects reviewed in the audit report, no issues were noted anywhere in the district. The five aspects were yellow book compliance, internal controls, single audit, legal compliance and enrollment.

“It’s very unlikely to get an audit report issued in Minnesota where you get unscathed or have no compliance issues,” Hoogeveen said. “Your district had no finding under any of the particular audit letters that we issued … That was very commendable.”

Following the audit report, Board Vice Chair Lori Weisenburger offered comments to the accounting personnel of gratitude for the work they have done throughout the year.

“I work in the compliance field, so I understand the importance and value of a clean audit,” Weisenburger said. “It’s unheard of in many industries, especially in the education field.”

Other meeting news

School Board Clerk Eric Schuster gave a brief update on what is happening with construction at the new Owatonna High School following the facilities meeting. He said some of the bathrooms are ready to be plumbed and anticipates walls going up in January.

Thirteen students were also able to tour the grounds recently as a part of a career development program.

Superintendent Jeff Elstad then spoke about an update from Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, regarding a vaccine mandate for all staff of businesses with more than 100 employees. He said this mandate was stayed by district court and is set to be heard again Dec. 7-10 by the Sixth District Court in Ohio.

Elstad said one of three things can come out of this hearing: the stay will continue and the mandate will remain on pause, the mandate will be dismissed or move forward. He said the district has now begun discussing and planning around what impacts the potential mandate could it’s more than 800 employees. Though he gave no further information on how the district alone will tackle and potential mandates, Elstad said they will be following whatever OSHA recommends.

Elstad also celebrated the kick off of winter activities in the district.

“It’s really exciting to see our kids involved and that’s a big part of the engagement we have with our students to get involved in activities,” Elstad said.

State of the district

Earlier this month, Elstad addressed the State of the District on the school website.

“It would be an understatement to say that the last year-and-a-half have been among the most challenging of my 28-year career in education,” Elstad said. “I would also imagine that most of my colleagues would agree.”

He continued on by discussing how departments, educators and students had to adapt during the peak of the pandemic. Some learners were able to continue school in person, while others went to a hybrid model.

Elstad also spoke about the challenges that arose from all students coming back to school every day. Many students had to re-learn what it meant to be together and in classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms and gymnasiums again.

“I am so grateful to our amazing educators. During the deepest and darkest hours of the pandemic, they continued to rise up and remove barriers to ensure students were receiving the best education we could provide,” Elstad said. “Working with students is a calling and the challenges of the pandemic called on our educators to go above and beyond. They are my heroes.”

Reach reporter Emily Kahnke at 507-444-2376. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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