Riverwood Audit Shows Several Areas of Concern

On Tuesday, Fulton County Schools said no crime was committed.

The audit report of Riverwood High School, which led to the shows several areas of concern.

On Tuesday, Samantha Evans, executive director of Communications for Fulton County Schools told Patch that there was no embezzlement, and no criminal charges were being brought against Echols. 

“Embezzlement would imply a financial loss to the school,” she said. “There was no financial loss to the school.”

The period in question from the audit is June 2008 to July 2009.

The report said Echols used a school American Express Card for personal use and later reimbursed the school, at least in part. The auditor could not be certain because a detailed list of the reimbursed items was not provided by Echols.

According to the report, bookkeeping revealed expenditures in the Principal Expense Account that exceeded the limit by $6,185.35. It was recorded in a way that the account appeared to be over the limit by $86.31.

The report showed delays of up to nine days in the recording of gate receipts for athletic events. Receipts were recorded by the bookkeeper in the school’s receipt book after deposits appeared on bank statements.

The auditor found that four receipts for football totaling $19,618 were not recorded properly on the next day, as required by regulations.

For basketball, gate receipts totaling $3,318 were not recorded properly on the next business day.

The auditor wrote, “These deficiencies render assets more susceptible to loss or fraud.”

When it came to school donations, no documents were obtained confirming the purpose of the funds received. At least $38,110 was received through nine donations, in which it could not be verified if the funds were used according to donors' wishes.

The report found seven Student Activity Fund accounts with negative balances totaling $4,896, as of June 2009. The auditor did not say the balances were inaccurate.

He wrote, “The principal should not approve purchase requisitions or write checks from SAF accounts unless there are sufficient funds to prevent SAF accounts from resulting in a negative account balance.”

On Tuesday, Evans added, “At this point there has been no indication that there [was] any financial loss to the school. This is more about not following board policy. Not following policy of how funds should be used.”

Dennis Kostulakos will serve as interim principal at Riverwood. 

Echols had been the school principal since 2002 and was hired by Fulton County Schools in 1987, as a math teacher at Roswell High School.

Last week, it was announced that are among the highest in Georgia.

Julie September 21, 2011 at 12:48 PM
Beverly Hall, Superintendent of the APS, implicated in the cheating scandal involving underperforming schools and thousand of students, is allowed to "retire" and Eddie Echols, a great and caring principal, is forced to resign over what appears to be accounting errors. Another injustice.
Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Eddie Echols has been a major reason--not the only reason, certainly, but a major one nonetheless--why Riverwood is such a prestigious school. To force him to resign over something as petty and ultimately insignificant as this is just mind-boggling. Reprimand him, yes; maybe find other ways to punish him for this apparently sloppy bookkeeping. But to punish the whole school, and even the entire community, like this just doesn't make sense...especially when I doubt that ANY school in Georgia has airtight financial records. Like I say, he should be disciplined, most definitely...bookkeeping is an important part of running any organization. But punishing the entire school by forcing him to resign--that's a little like forcing Bill Gates to resign simply because he accidentally put his underwear on backwards one day, and, well..that just goes against policy, so out the door he goes. Or are they going to levy this same, exact punishment on the principal of every school that has any financial discrepancy? If so, then all of the country's out-of-work principals need to make a beeline to Fulton County, because there are about to be as many openings here for principals as there are schools... But what they ought to do is stop acting like jackasses and get this excellent principal back to work on our team, back to work keeping Riverwood as excellent and world-class as it has been since he started there, before the private sector snatches him up and he never looks back.
Greg from Marietta September 21, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Riverwood is a good school, as far as public schools go. There is no doubt about that. But I always have had the feeling that the Riverwood community thinks that the school is a lot better than it actually is. Yes, the IB program there is a good thing, and certainly makes Riverwood look a little better compared to all of the independent schools nearby who offer as much or more... but nobody ever mentions all the students, jammed into crowded classrooms, who are not a part of that "prestigious" fraction of a very big, very crowded school. Nevertheless, it appears that a good school has lost a good principal. Solid school leadership is hard to find, and one would hope that APS would not be so quick to pull the trigger on dismissing a good administrator without a very good reason for doing so. There has to be more to this story that we haven't heard yet.
Johnny September 21, 2011 at 02:13 PM
I think you are right, the 37 page Audit, whereby Eddie admits he hasn't balanced the books since 2005, has no records of Athletic gate receipts, pays for his Daughters rehearsal dinner with a Riverwood American Express Card (in and of itself not allowed), along with the inability to find his American Express statements, failure to make timely deposits of what appears to be in the 100's of Thousands of dollars and then is found guilty of Ethics Code Violation 5 and 10 under Fulton County Board of Education, is no real reason to scare us stupid. The kids were ripped off. Quite Plain and Quite Simple. And not for a little while, but since 2005, according to the Audit which he agreed to and signed off on. Other than that, a great person for sure. I guess is sounds petty, but 7 years of unbalanced books sounds like.............money missing.
Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 06:19 PM
haha hey judge smails, does your grandson still pick his nose?
Greg from Marietta September 21, 2011 at 06:23 PM
How 'bout a Fresca?
Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Unless something has come out very recently today that indicates there was money missing, the reports yesterday (and so far today, as far as I can tell) were all emphasizing that (as this very article points out) "there was no financial loss to the school". So, no, the kids didn't get ripped off, based on the evidence so far...no matter how many words you erroneously capitalize in the process. But, if you've seen a report that I've missed that indicates otherwise, then please let me know about it...I'd like to see the details if there is an accusation of embezzlement. Until they have reason to suspect that money is in fact missing, it doesn't matter what anything "sounds like"...what matters are the facts.
Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 07:18 PM
DaiseyDoodle September 21, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Part 1 : I see what Johnny is saying......On page 13, 14 and 15 of the Audit, the Auditor points out a pretty clear path to "where's the money", since there was no check and balance or any clear way to confirm the "true amount" of money missing. While its easy to turn a blind eye to the obvious as a kid, we have to as Adults face the facts. Johnny is right in pointing out what the Auditor said. I added in () my thoughts: "A review of Athletic Ticket Summary Reports associated with football and basketball gate receipts disclosed the following: The business manager deposited the gate receipt deposits with the bank before giving the deposits to the bookkeeper to record in the school’s receipt book. (this is a Fulton violation as nobody can confirm an amount) The gate receipts were recorded by the bookkeeper in the school’s receipt book after the deposit appeared on the bank statement; (looks like the bookkeeper was asleep at the wheel as well) Four gate receipts for football totaling $19,618 were not recorded in the school’s receipt book on the next business day. (why not, but what does it matter, it is a repetitive issue since 2005 as pointed out by the Audit)
DaiseyDoodle September 21, 2011 at 07:33 PM
Part 2: It then goes on to say: The monies were recorded one to nine later; (why isnt someone following procedures and why the delay) Eight gate receipts for basketball totaling $3,318 were not receipted in the school’s receipt book on the next business day. The monies were receipted three to eight business days after the game; (odd, see above) Internal deposit slips were not used for gate receipts and submitted to the bookkeeper; (essentially a major accounting violation and lack of check and balance) Tickets sales prices were not in compliance with the guidelines established by the supervisor of interscholastic athletics; (odd) The principal did not sign 14 out of 15 Athletic Ticket Summary reports before submitting them to the Athletic Department. (basically, total and complete lack of oversight, integrity and honesty) These deficiencies render assets more susceptible to loss or fraud. (note the words loss or fraud). There was a substantially high risk that management would not be able to prevent errors or irregularities from occurring or detecting them in a timely manner. With this pointed out in the Audit (and agreed to by Echols), I think that is where Johnny gets his information and we should be proud of him for being honest and truthful. Go Johnny!!
Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 07:52 PM
@DaisyDoodle Yes, it sure sounds like the bookkeeper was negligent...probably ought to discipline that bookkeeper. And, yes, the principal is ultimately responsible, as he is indeed the "captain of the ship" so to speak...but is removing an otherwise very good principal--one who has been excellent for the school (based on the school's track record and performance history under him)--is removing that guy justified in this circumstance? Because just like he is "responsible" for the negligent actions of his staff, he is "responsible" for the successes of the school; even if he wasn't necessarily personally responsible for the excellence of the school overall, he certainly was responsible for putting the people in place that have made that school as great as it is. I think the specifics of this impropriety aren't as bad as Echols leadership has been good... (continued...)
Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 07:52 PM
... Unless there is reason to think there was collusion between Echols and the bookkeeper, and reason to believe that some money was in fact missing--and I would imagine if there could be any reasonable suspicion that money was in fact stolen, that there would be charges filed...remember, *not knowing* whether money was taken or not is very different from having reasonable suspicion that money was in fact taken, and law enforcement would be expected to pursue a reasonable suspicion--then I think forcing Echols to resign over it is quite an overreaction...*especially* considering the track record of the school under Echols. One can only expect that a sudden, jarring incident like removing a principal a few weeks into a new school year, and a hasty replacement under duress, will not likely lead to a better overall school environment. Maybe they could have figured out a better way to address this sort of an accounting issue that's not quite so ham-handedly, like they're trying to use a bulldozer to open your mailbox.
DaiseyDoodle September 21, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Well, call me a silly girl, but if a 37 page Audit that reflects complete and utter loss of abiility to balance the books, and an 8 page investigtive report that has the Principal admitting that he applied, used and kept using an (illegal American Express Card), and then the Fulton School Board Auditor goes on to say "we are not sure what we do or dont know", becuase Echols said he "cant find" the statements isnt severe enough for some, I understand. The Audit could be best summed up in a quote by John Dean "there was a cancer growing on Riverwood". They cut it off. Now we can fix the mess left behind.
Bob September 21, 2011 at 10:12 PM
No evidence of embezzlement. No evidence of missing funds. Sloppy record keeping, yes. That is not enough to warrant this kind of action. Still waiting to see the body before agreeing there is evidence of a crime.
Denise Champion December 12, 2011 at 10:08 PM
One correction......it was a son's rehearsal rather than a daughter's. Still an overreaction in the total scheme of things. Echols will be sorely missed. Wait and see.


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