PARIS, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV)– The Paris 95 School Board announced Lorraine Bailey as the temporary superintendent for the district and provided the latest on the ongoing investigation into the school’s finances during their board meeting on Monday.
The meeting began with the school board president Kevin Knoepfel reading a prepared statement that included new information about the details regarding the $3.2 million in questionable spending discovered by the Illinois State Board of Education during an audit this year.
Knoepfel said that the board’s understanding is that none of the funds are missing, but rather incorrectly reported and/or allocated for grant purposes. The school district received an extension to submit a corrective action plan to the ISBE. The new deadline will be July 15th.
He also confirmed that two employees, superintendent Jeremy Larson along with Sally Keller, have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues. The board received a federal grand jury subpoena that they are currently responding to, and they are fully cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The full statement is provided below:
“As you are likely aware, the school district received final findings from the Illinois State Board of Education related its audit of the School District on June 14, 2023. The Board was aware prior to receiving the final findings that issues had been identified by auditors related to the reporting of expenses and compliance with Board Policies and Procedures, and district administrators have been working with auditors for several months to correct the entries.”
“With the assistance of the Regional Superintendent, the District has obtained an extension to July 15, 2023, to submit the Corrective Action Plan, as required under the final ISBE findings. It is our understanding that no actual funds are missing, but that they were not correctly reported and/or allocated for grant purposes. The Board did receive a federal grand jury subpoena. While we are working on responding to the subpoena, we note that we do not have to make the subpoena contents publicly available in alignment with existing law. We understand this may be frustrating to the public.”
“The Board is committed to cooperating fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in responding to the subpoena. Dr. Jeremy Larson and Sally Keller have been placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation. The Board cannot comment further on pending personnel matters.”
“It is the intent of the Board to adopt a temporary superintendent agreement tonight in order to have experienced leadership in place to address the ISBE findings and corrective action plans, and to support the day-to-day operations of the School District. In addition, the District continues to serve over 300 students in summer camps, which will continue as scheduled. While it is summer, the School District continues to operate and work must be done to ensure a smooth transition into the 2023-2024 school term.”
Knoepfel took several questions from the public afterwards and said the district has been working alongside the ISBE to make sure they take the right steps with the investigation, including possibly receiving additional extensions to complete their action plan.
“I’ve also been assured by ISBE that even if we need additional time, they will work with us. They want to make sure they get this done,” he said.
With Bailey now in place, Knoepfel said the district is prepared to move forward as the investigation takes its course.
“The school district is very healthy, we are fine, we will be business as usual come day one,” he said. “We’ve got excellent teachers here doing an excellent job and we got excellent administrators doing their job.”