Missing items in Shelby County stem from outdated, unchecked procedures, superintendent says

Shelby County school officials said Tuesday that outdated and unchecked procedures led to thousands of items going missing, including cars, laptops and air conditioners. Those items were flagged in the district’s first external audit of assets in 30 years, released yesterday.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II and board members Kevin Woods, Chris Caldwell and Billy Orgel met with members of the press Tuesday to discuss the audit’s findings. The full audit with the list of missing items hasn’t been released to the public.  

Hopson said that the missing items were likely the result of a combination of factors.

“This is an audit of 30 years in two school systems,” he said. “Some is human error, some is theft, some of it is poor record keeping.”

Board member Orgel said that blaming missing items on the merger was “an excuse.” The missing items are due to “taking 1975 procedures and using them in 2013,” he said.

Woods said the audit was a “necessary first step” in moving the district toward more reliable asset management. He said the district did not intend to defend its practices, but to improve them. “This puts us on notice, and confirms some things we may have been concerned about. It gives us an opportunity to hold ourselves to higher standards.”

“We have to do better,” said superintendent Hopson.

The audit, conducted by ProBar Associates based on a list of assets provided by the district, found some 10,200 items were missing from legacy Shelby County schools’ 56,290 items and around 44,011 items missing from legacy Memphis City Schools’ 189,000 items. That’s 18 percent of the former suburban school districts’ items, and 23 percent of the city schools’. 

The items missing from the legacy Memphis schools were worth approximately $33 million. Those missing from the legacy Shelby County schools were worth close to $15 million. The valuation of the items by the auditing agency did not account for depreciation over time.

Internal audits in legacy Memphis City Schools had turned up occasional irregularities, which were dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

While the results released today alarmed school officials and board members, the initial findings looked worse, Hopson said. It initially appeared that close to 40 percent of items from the legacy city schools and close to half of the suburban district’s items were missing, he said. School officials re-counted objects and found some of those items.

The audit was conducted between June and October 2013 so that the new municipal districts and the merged Shelby County district had an accurate representation of their assets. This audit did not account for items within charter schools or schools run by the state’s Achievement School District.

The audit’s executive summary says some items may have been improperly disposed of, and others may have been lost over the course of school closings and the merger. Other items, including some cars used for drivers’ education programs, had been improperly tagged or otherwise misidentified.

The district plans to do what superintendent Hopson described as a “deep dive” into the 17,000-page audit to identify any “hot spots” or patterns where objects went missing. School officials will be asked to look again for missing items. The district’s auditor Melvin Burgess will also analyze its procedures and provide its plan for dealing with the inventory within 30 days. 

Hopson said terminations are possible if someone had willfully taken items. 

Hopson said he plans to reach out to AutoZone, FedEx, and other corporations in the area to see if they can help the district modernize its systems for tracking items.

The superintendent also said that the central office would plan to take on responsibility for improving its systems, so inventorying did not fall solely on the shoulders of principals. The district plans to investigate other school systems’ best practices for conducting audits, but external audits do not come cheap.

The audit cost the district close to $1 million. “The last media coverage of this focused on why we spent $1 million on counting things we possessed,” said board member Kevin Woods. “Now you see exactly why we spent a million to count assets.”

Memphis-area schools are not the only place where audits have turned up irregularities. An audit of Philadelphia schools last spring found boxes of equipment sitting unused in shuttered school buildings.

SCS Executive Summary of audit

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.