FLORISSANT, MO (KTVI) - Parents in the Hazelwood School District believe there is someone to blame for budget mishaps and are calling for accountability of administrators by petitioning the state of Missouri to conduct an audit.
Hazelwood's school board meetings typically happen in the administration building. But Tuesday night's larger-than-normal crowd met inside the Hazelwood East Early Childhood Center to accommodate the size. By the start of the meeting, 250 people had signed an online petition demanding the resignation of Interim Superintendent Ingrid Clark-Jackson.
Now parents are circulating a new petition, that if successful, would carry more weight. They want Missouri state officials to comb through Hazelwood's financial records to ensure taxpayer funds are not being misappropriated.
Several parents and students took last night's public comment period to share with the board how they feel cutting band and orchestra from the day in elementary schools is a mistake. The district is also cutting physical education time and teachers.
"Cutting Hazelwood P.E. minutes in half," said one Hazelwood parent who spoke at the podium, "[says] that we are not concerned with the long-term health and well being of students, as long as they`re really good at taking tests."
District officials say the cuts are necessary because of an operating budget deficit of at least $12.7 million. It is blamed on a $15 million loss in revenue from property taxes. The school board says the cuts were agreed to after years of collaborative efforts with students, parents and teachers, pointing to a 2013 survey that prioritized where cuts should happen. Only 25% of the survey's responses came from parents.
Parents disagree they were all invited to the table to discuss the cuts, and some accuse the district of cherry picking select parents to be involved.
Missouri's state auditor says parents will need to collect at least 5,000 signatures. About 300 attended last night's meeting.
House Representative Keith English, who asked the school board to fire the interim superintendent, asked the state to withhold any public funds from the District until they release details of its February budget.
District officials say a state audit could cost up to $120,000, just shy of the average annual salary earned by Hazelwood's six assistant superintendents. Administrators noted a an independent firm they hired audited the district's 2015 fiscal year finances.
Our partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report the state would review that audit before conducting its own.