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Read the document: Audit says Chesterfield County schools not properly maintaining records

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An internal audit found Chesterfield County Public Schools is not properly maintaining its own records, those in charge of managing them are unaware of responsibilities or haven’t been trained and most documents exist in paper form despite a $1 million investment into systems created to store them electronically.

The result is a school system that is out of compliance with state code, which authorizes the Library of Virginia to regulate the retention of state and local public records. These records can include annual reports to the Virginia Department of Education, financial information, civil rights or special education complaints, Title IX investigations, report cards and student health care plans.

CCPS did not answer questions on whether the district was aware of these issues prior to the audit or if officials were already working on rectifying these problems.

But in a statement Wednesday evening, spokesperson Shawn Smith wrote: “Chesterfield County Public Schools appreciates the work of our county internal audit team. As the report details, the school division has put into place plans and timelines to rectify the issue.”

Added Dot Heffron, a Chesterfield School Board member representing Clover Hill district, in a statement: “As with previous internal audit recommendations, the board expects to receive a report that will outline the superintendent’s plan to address the recommended actions, as well as a timeline for implementation and measures for success. I am grateful for the work of our audit team, and as a board liaison to our CCPS Audit and Finance Committee, I appreciate the insight offered through this report.”

The audit commended CCPS for maintaining student cumulative files and establishing records destruction dates in one of the online systems.

Per the 17-page audit, an ineffective records management program can increase costs for equipment and personnel, leave essential records unprotected and decrease accountability of public funds.

Before a school division can destroy a public record, the Library of Virginia requires officials to designate a records officer to complete and file a specific form with LVA — named RM-20 — and complete a Certificate of Records Destruction prior to destroying documents. All investigations, litigations or Virginia Freedom of Information Act requests must also be completed.

Released Friday of Fourth of July weekend, the audit reported CCPS hasn’t consistently done that.

Auditors noted “there is no process in place to properly inventory public records across schools and departments,” and the three records officers employed across the 63,000-student school system “do not effectively implement the records program,” which risks a chance of improperly destroying records.

The grants department does not have complete records prior to 2018 despite Virginia code requiring a retention period of five years after a project is finished. CCPS’ legal office began tracking records in 2013. While the Certificate of Records Destruction was completed or submitted correctly 83% of the time last year, only 41% of forms were retained in compliance with the Library of Virginia’s guidelines.

Auditors examined 128 public schools records across five schools, and none was retaining records in compliance with state code.

In management responses within the report, records officers said they would develop and maintain a “comprehensive” RM-20 form by January 2024 that’s available in a central location alongside training materials. That same month, Chief Technology Officer Tim Tillman will re-evaluate whether the records officers are “appropriately placed within the organizational chart” and consider adding another from technology services, per the audit’s recommendations.

The audit also recommended CCPS determine which schools and departments are not complying with retention requirements and work to fix the issue, which records officers said will be done by December of this year. Shifting paper records to an electronic format is expected to be completed by July 2023, with an initiative included in the fiscal year 2024 budget.

But that, and establishing an electronic records system that aligns with retention schedules, is “contingent on affordability,” the document said.

The Chesterfield school system includes 65 schools and over 61,000 students.

smoreno@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6103

Twitter: @sabrinaamorenoo

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