Salem school district works on its finances

SALEM -- The city school district is trying to improve oversight of its finances after being rocked months ago with allegations of wrongdoing in the treasurer's office.
The situation led to the resignation in December of Treasurer Ted Cougras and the launching of an investigation by the Columbiana County Prosecutor's office, which remains ongoing.
During Monday's school board meeting, new Treasurer Alice Gunning said she'll eventually be recommending two district residents to serve on an audit committee charged with overseeing school finances.
"It's just checks and balances," Superintendent Dr. David Brobeck said of the committee's purpose.
Besides two public members, panel will consist of Gunning and two school board members.
Candidates' requirements
For public members, Gunning said she's looking for individuals skilled in financial matters, such as bankers and accountants. The posts are nonpaid. Anyone interested should contact Gunning at the district's office.
The committee's formation is intended to help ensure no more shadows are cast over the district's financial activity, Brobeck said.
"We're trying to minimize the chance of it ever happening again," he added.
The prosecutor's office is probing the use of school funds in March 2002 for $781 worth of office equipment that was delivered to Cougras' Poland home.
Cougras has not been charged with any crime.
Brobeck also noted that the district has implemented a new procedure that requires purchase orders to contain more detail, including the intended use for any items the district buys.
Labor talks
Negotiations are under way between the school board and the Salem Education Association, the union representing nearly 160 teachers, Brobeck said. The contract expires Aug. 31.
Early next month, labor talks are expected to begin between the school board and local members of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, which represents the district's bus drivers, custodians, cooks and other employees.
Their contract expires July 3.
In other matters, the school board accepted the retirement resignation of Steve Krivonak. Krivonak is leaving at the end of the school year after having taught special education at the high school for 34 years.