One thing is certain for every school district in Washington State: annual audits.
Ferndale School District is no exception says Assistant Superintendent for Business & Support Services, Mark Deebach. "We are regulated by state and federal law, supervised by the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction and annual audits by the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) are required by law."
Ferndale School District has just ended the audit for 2017. Typically, an audit includes an intense three-week span with Washington State Auditors stationed at the District Office. The team of auditors pours over School District record books; interviews staff; and combs through every line item. For this audit year – SAO completed three separate audit categories: Financial, Accountability, and Federal Grant Compliance.
The big news? The Ferndale School District earned clean results on the Financial and Accountability Audits. These audits monitor expenditures in operational spending and capital (IE: Bond) expenditures.
Superintendent Linda Quinn says that the audit results make public what she sees every day. “We have a tremendously talented group of people who manage the Ferndale School District’s work. I am proud of our Business and Accounting Team. This audit gives us an opportunity to share good news with our community.”
According to a letter signed by Washington State Auditor Pat McCarthy, “Independent audits provide essential accountability and transparency for District operations. This information is valuable to management, the governing body and public stakeholders when assessing the government’s stewardship of public resources.”
Ferndale School District takes transparency and stewardship of public resources very seriously.
The District’s daily financial behavior is managed by Holly Graham. Graham, a Certified Public Accountant, Ironman triathlete, and organizer of a local marathon training program, likes to tell marathon hopefuls that what they do when the coach isn’t looking is more important than coaching sessions.
“There are real similarities between accounting and my work training marathoners and competing in Ironman Triathlons," says Graham.
Graham would know. After all, she's been on the other side of the accounting desk. Prior to coming to the Ferndale School District, Graham worked as an Assistant State Auditor where she regularly managed audits and worked to make sure public entities in Washington State were on solid financial footing. That work became her passion.
"Holly has brought a special brand of expertise to our department," said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mark Deebach. "As a CPA, Holly brings unparalleled attention to detail but also a real passion for the people and the culture of the district."
That culture and passion for people includes a focus on continual improvement. For the district, the 2017 Audit gave them an area for improvement as well.
“While there were no questions regarding the way we spent money, we made a few mistakes with paperwork last year. We need to be really careful about details that seem small. An example that turned up in our audit result: any employee paid through a federal grant must provide signature acknowledging they are paid through federal funding. We missed a few of those signatures. That was one area our auditing team identified and it will be an area they look closely at during our next audit,” said Graham.
School District finances are notoriously complicated. Holly's expertise is important as she leads the Finance Team in managing all things that carry a dollar sign throughout the District. Ultimate responsibility for Ferndale School District finances rests with the School Board, and the Superintendent.
Holly says that dynamic is important, "my team is keenly aware of our responsibility as caretakers. We are a well-oiled machine – we have to be – no one ever operates unilaterally. We are always checking and double checking each other."
Holly Graham is the Director of Accounting for the Ferndale School District where she supervises a team of professionals who manage the School District’s finances. When not at work, Holly competes in Ironman Triathlons and she also trains beginning marathoners. Holly shares her home with beloved cats and a rescue Goldendoodle called Bailey. Adult sons Austin and Kyle are pursuing dreams of their own.
Each school district in the state is required to develop and adopt its own budget prior to the beginning of each school year. The budget process is governed by state law, state regulations and instructions provided by the Superintendent of Public Instruction with budgets prepared on forms strictly prescribed for this purpose.