The U.S. Department of Education will be on island next week to oversee Guam DOE’s progress on addressing their high risk grantee status. GDOE has been working on their transition plan and held a media briefing this morning to show how they have been preparing for this meeting.
Guam – The Guam Department of Education is prepping for a visit from the US DOE next week. They’re also anticipating what US DOE will say about GDOE’s progress in transitioning out of high-risk grantee status, which is a target GDOE has set its sight on for years now.
Since 2009, special conditions have been placed on GDOE including the requirement for a third-party fiduciary to manage how GDOE spends federal funds. Mainly, GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez explains, their goal is to remove the third party and transfer the responsibility to the department so that the department will not only become more accountable and transparent, but it would also save GDOE millions of dollars.
Fernandez explains DOE’s progress over the years. “So from an audit standpoint, we went from un-auditable to clean audits, tremendous and significant progress, which indicates that we have a handle on our financial condition and management.”
In addition to the Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan, DOE also developed a transition plan, which lists a time frame for various activities. Fernandez says, “To me that wasn’t strategic enough to give us guidance internally of how to prioritize the work, so from there, we took the CCAP and generated a transition plan, which I think is more direct, granular, time-sensitive. We met with US DOE in June to go over that plan and to get their buy in and we’ve been using that transition plan in our bi-weekly calls to monitor and report our progress.”
As for the plan structure, Fernandez assigned co-chairpersons to lead and track the progress of seven initiatives: Time Distribution Reports, Financial Management Information Systems, Internal Controls, Procurement, Property Management, Standard Operating Procedures and Indirect Costs. Fernandez says he hopes to check some of those initiatives off US DOE’s checklist when they hit a certain milestone.
“This meeting is critical because last meeting they said ‘we’ve seen a lot of progress but we won’t be able to tell what will be sustainable without the third party so this year we focused on trying to differentiate all the activities we need to do locally and support to provide our staff with training and we want a clear transition plan going forward so when they come in, we’ll be able to say ‘this is the progress we talked about, here’s where we are, please go out and validate that we are what we say we are’. Third, nail down what will happen once we completed these activities.”
Fernandez explains that the department can always request for US DOE to revisit GDOE’s special conditions, however, he does not want to unless they’ve made enough progress. He says, “We always have the authority to request that US DOE come in and revisit the special conditions. We want to do so when we’re in the position to succeed, we don’t want to do so if we think that internally we’re not ready because if they come back, they could impose stricter conditions if they find that we didn’t make the progress.”
US DOE officials will be on island from November 3 to November 9. During the upcoming visit, the officials will be visiting with the Guam Education Board, GDOE management, the Office of Public Accountability, the Guam Legislature, and GDOE employees at both the central office divisions as well as at schools.