Outside auditors of San Diego Unified found that its schools need to be more careful with money raised by student government groups. The funds are collected by students, who elect their own leaders and raise money for extra programs and activities. They are not supposed to be used for instructional supplies and equipment or ordinary school expenses.

Certified public accountants from the firm Nigro, Nigro and White found that schools often failed to get approval for spending or kept shoddy records with inadequate receipts. One school, Balboa Elementary, used the money to cover school office expenses in violation of state law, according to a preliminary finding given to a school district committee Wednesday.

The report recommended annual training for school staff on how to handle the funds and a standardized method for handling the money to prevent foul play.

This is not the first time that San Diego schools have been scolded for how they handle student funds: Last year San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts got into hot water for transferring nearly $66,000 from a student government account to cover instructional supplies and chipping in a small part of the salary for a visiting teacher, according to an audit last May.

The issue erupted again at the same school this year, albeit under different leadership, when Principal Mitzi Lizarraga asked the student government to use roughly $600 in student funds for a staff activity at a local restaurant. She has since reimbursed the group.

The report also noted some bright spots for keeping San Diego Unified on the straight and narrow: Attendance and independent study agreements, a fertile area for fraud because schools get their money based on how many students are in class, were both nearly flawless, with less than a 1 percent error rate in the schools reviewed.


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