Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

April 24, 2014

Superintendent McGrath slams lag in technology

Software delay saddles officials with tedious chore

School Superintendent Marinel McGrath told members of the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee last week that she and representatives of the town and school finance teams spent 100 hours going through carbon-copy expense vouchers to see who had been hired in the School Department over the last year or so.

She undertook the task as she looked for savings in her $70 million budget as part of a $1.2 million cost-cutting plan forced on her by the town manager and selectmen.

The process was fruitful, as she and other finance officials found nearly six positions that were either “unapproved, reinstated or double entries,” saving $141,903.

But it was a task, she said, she hopes to never repeat again.

“If the town is not ready next year with (Munis), I am purchasing my own software,” she said. “I am never letting this happen again.”

Munis is a software system purchased by the town several years ago for a couple million dollars that was supposed to make it easier for managers to track the hiring, firing and benefits of town and school employees.

The only problem is that it was never adopted by the School Department, making the task of tracking employees a laborious and tedious one.

McGrath said principals are required to submit forms, with four carbon copies, any time they want to hire an instructional assistant to help out on the playground or work with a special education student.

As school and finance officials went through all the forms, she said, they found five or six positions that had not been correctly requested or approved by the proper people, while others were “double-counted” or had been reinstated.

The revelation that McGrath, the highest-paid employee in the city, had to go through carbon paper to review employee requests from principals was met with a gasp by many who attended a budget meeting last week.

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