All Things Business

Business Services Newsletter - May 2021 Edition

Preventing Fraud- What You Can and Should Do!

In school systems, there are three main types of fraud: corruption, asset misappropriation, and fraudulent statements. Corruption is the wrongful use of influence to procure a benefit for the actor or another person, contrary to the duty or rights of others. Typical types of corruption include conflicts of interest, bribery, illegal gratuities, and economic extortion. Asset misappropriation occurs two main ways: the asset can be misused (district vehicles, supplies, computers, etc.) or the asset can be stolen (theft of cash on hand, theft of cash receipts, fraudulent disbursements, or inventory related (misuse/larceny). Financial statement fraud is the deliberate misrepresentation of the financial condition of the school, district, ASB/USB, club, etc. accomplished through the intentional misstatement or omission of amounts or disclosure in the financial statements to deceive financial statement users. Examples of this type of fraud include net worth/net income overstatement and net worth/net income understatement. Our district has policies and procedures in place that are designed to provide the Governing Board and management with reasonable assurance that our district achieves its objectives and goals in a legal and forthcoming way. These policies and procedures include “internal controls” that are designed to limit inappropriate or unauthorized access to assets, management review and approval of expenditures, and through the timely reconciliations of financial documents. Internal controls are designed to protect everyone- the district, schools (including charter schools), programs, employees, volunteers, students, our district’s assets, and our reputations.

In our district, it is essential that if you suspect one of these types of fraud or a deliberate lack of following internal controls at your school or your workplace, you do something. Our district has an anonymous hotline on the fiscal services webpage, (see below), specifically for the purpose of reporting suspected fraud. Helping protect the integrity of all district assets and stakeholders is everyone’s business!

Brian J. Murray, Ed.D.

Assistant Superintendent, Business Services

Palm Springs Unified School District

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Fiscal Services

The PSUSD Fiscal Services functions include payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, collecting developer fees, accounting operations, regulatory reporting, maintaining and creating budgets, attendance reporting, and cash handling. We are here to serve all district employees as we all support our students. Please let us know how we are doing and if you have suggestions for process improvements. We are all working full time, and we have some employees still working from home. Email is the very best way to reach us!


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Rocio Haskins

Rocio Haskins is the next newest member of the Fiscal Services department. Currently, Rocio is an account tech supporting the federal and state program fiscal reporting requirements. She and Rosa Barroso-Hurtado are the PSUSD state and federal fiscal program team. Rosa started in PSUSD as the Health and Welfare Accounting Assistant in 2016.

Rocio was born in Lompoc, CA and moved to the Coachella Valley in 1999. Rocio is a single parent with two sons. Ethan is 17 and attends Mt. San Jacinto and Sawyer is 14 and attends Rancho Mirage High School. Rocio also has two dogs, Rusty the Pomeranian and the latest addition is Mia the Terrier Mix. Rocio is holding Mia in her picture.

Rocio enjoys hiking and has explored many of the local trails in the Coachella Valley. She and her sons are car enthusiasts and they just visited the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles last week. Additionally, Rocio enjoys live performance concerts which have been temporarily suspended. Her most recent concert was Stevie Nicks prior to COVID. She also enjoys attending The Rock Yard in Fantasy Springs for the live performances.

Facilities, Planning and Development

California Department of Education established a Career Technical Facilities Grant Program to construct CTE Facilities on comprehensive high school sites. Facilities Planning staff applied for 2 grant projects at Desert Hot Springs High School; a new classroom building for the Renewable Energy Academy of Learning (REAL) and a new classroom building for the Public Safety Academy (PSA). These 2 grant applications competed against 1000 other projects submitted from school districts through-out the State of California in 2019. The REAL new classroom building was awarded $2.6 million in project funds in 2019. The PSA application did not receive enough points initially to make the funding rounding but was resubmitted in 2020 and the PSA new classroom building was awarded $2.5 million in project funds. Both these classrooms are now completed and ready for students starting in April 2021.

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Transportation Services

Meet the Dispatchers of First Student

Now that we have opened school to most grades, it should be noted that the Transportation Department could not have made this happen without the help from the First Student dispatchers. The dispatchers are the hub for scheduling buses out for 85 different routes ensuring they get to and from the schools on time. The dispatch phone rings constantly and everything that goes on with the bus must go through the dispatchers. Scheduling has been very complex during hybrid with students in either Group A, Group B or choosing to stay on Distance Learning. Both dispatchers are customer service-oriented and always can find ways to make home to school, sporting trips, and special assessment testing appear to work seamlessly. When buses are on the road, the office is a flurry of activity between the radio and phone transmissions similar to what a 911 dispatcher does for the police department. They have to keep things straight and plan for drivers who are sick, disabled buses, and road closures due to blowing sand or flooding. They have contingency plans on how to manage the operation so on your end you see a smooth-running operation for our students. Our main dispatchers are Christina Vargas and Rachel Perez. They do a great job for us!

Christina Vargas

Christina Vargas started with Laidlaw until it became First Student 19 years ago. In addition to being a dispatcher for 10 years, she was a bus driver for the first 9 years. Christina moved to the Coachella Valley from the Los Angeles area with her family and put 5 children through the Palm Springs Unified School District and all of them graduating from Cathedral City High School. Prior to working for First Student, she worked for 5 years at Pavilion’s Grocery store in Los Angeles and also spent some time working in retail. Christina is a bigtime dodgers baseball fan. Christina is very knowledgeable about the history of busing at PSUSD, and it is great to have a historian available.

Rachel Perez

Rachel Perez has been with First Student as a dispatcher for 4 years and she had 3 years with another company prior as dispatcher. Rachel grew up in Anaheim, California before moving to the desert. Rachel has three children attending PSUSD. Rachel has an associate degree in Criminal Justice. She not only works fulltime at First Student she has two other jobs besides taking care of her family. Rachel is an avid seller on Etsy online mainly for fun. When she completes all routes for students for the week, she then works for Post Mates and Door Dash delivering food to people over the weekend. Rachel was a great addition to the First Student routing team.

Nutrition Services

Palm Springs USD – Nutrition Services was awarded a CDFA Farm to Fork Grant in the amount of $145,981 for their plans to expand district capacity to purchase, distribute and educate about locally grown products with their families and local community.

Nutrition services plans to strengthen relationships with local farmers by forming agreements in which local farmers cultivate seasonal fruits and vegetables specifically for district students, which Nutrition Services will process using a new produce slicer and vertical packer that will be purchased with part of the funds. The food will then be sent to schools for meal service. Nutrition Services will also provide four classes of secondary students with monthly produce boxes in the classroom and accompanying lessons that include recipe demonstrations, hands-on activities, and instructional visits from farmers. Additionally, the district will host a farmers market event at four elementary schools, featuring local produce served in the cafeteria as well as nutrition and agriculture education. Palm Springs USD was one of 60 districts in the state of California that was awarded this grant.

The grant was made possible by the $13,000,000 the Governor set aside in this year’s budget for farm to school grants.

Purchasing, Warehouse and Reprographics

Celebrating our physical reopening of schools and now our work is focusing on the preparation for the 2021/2022 School Year. Purchasing Warehouse and Reprographics have spent the last year collaborating with all departments and school sites and I like to refer to this as the year of our COVID Creativity.

Pictured on the right: Super Carrot salutes our Nutrition Superheroes.

Maintenance & Operations

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If you have questions or comments related to Business Services, please contact Kris Murphy, Senior Administrative Assistant.