More than 230 items, each worth more than $1,000 - are missing from Frederick County schools.
More than 230 items, including tubas, computers and other technology - each worth more than $1,000 - are missing from Frederick County schools.
The missing property, when purchased, cost a combined $410,660.17.
The most expensive item unaccounted for is a 10-station workout machine at Crestwood Middle School, worth $11,390, according to a list of missing items provided to The Gazette by Leslie Pellegrino, the executive director of fiscal services for Frederick County Public Schools.
The school system tracks more than 14,000 items countywide.
Though 201 of the 236 items on the list of missing items are now worthless due to depreciation over time, Pellegrino said they stay on the list for record-keeping purposes. The items are now valued at $22,316.
"We always do," Pellegrino said. "That’s normal practice as long as you have possession of the item. It stays on the master fixed asset list even after it’s depreciated."
Two of the missing items were laptop computers stolen from Crestwood Middle School and Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.
But a solution to the problem is in the works. Beginning on July 1, the process to track items will be electronic. Currently, the school system uses paper forms that have led to inefficiencies, she said.
"When they become electronic, if one of the items is found, we have the serial number, we can put it in the electronic database," she said. "It’s going to be so much nicer."
Frederick’s $1,000 threshold for tracking missing items is below the $5,000 recommended by the state Department of Education, Pellegrino said.
"It would be so much easier, but our board and management here has always felt that we should continue to track at $1,000," she said. "You do lose a lot of control when you go up to $5,000."
She said the problem with the list is more of an issue with record keeping, and less of an issue with items being lost. When a staff member needs to dispose of an item, they fill out an equipment transfer form, attach the document to the item and notify workers in the central equipment warehouse that the item needs to be retrieved.
But the documentation is often lost in transition - causing items to be misplaced, Pellegrino said.
"The majority of those computers have been disposed of properly, it’s just people didn’t fill out the forms at the school," she said.
Roy McHaffa, the warehouse manager for Frederick County Public Schools, said the system’s relatively low threshold means the school tracks a large number of items.
"It’s such a low dollar amount," he said, adding that at the American Red Cross, his former employer, the amount to track was $5,000. "It’s pretty high-end equipment. ... We’re tracking a lot of items."
Inventory is checked at each school at the end of the year, according to school system documents.
McHaffa, who stressed that his employees don’t pick up items without the transfer forms, said the electronic list will make it easier to complete the pickup and removal process, as it simplifies the process.
"If the form’s not filled out completely, I can reject it and send it back immediately," he said. "Right now it’s via inter-office mail. ... There’s less chance for paperwork to get lost, even though we don’t pick it up without paperwork."
Central office staff also plan to make more frequent unannounced visits to schools to ensure items are where they belong.
"We’re looking to increase the accountability," Pellegrino said. "We are starting to do inspections. We’ve done three audits this spring where we go out from central office. We pick five items from different departments and ask for their location. ...We’re going to be doing more of that."
by Tripp Laino, Gazette