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East Aurora finance department takes another hit

Updated: December 21, 2012 6:19AM

AURORA — For the second time this school year, the East Aurora School District has lost the leader of its financial operations.

After spending a little more than two months on the job, Diana McCluskey resigned last week from her position as the district’s assistant director of business. She is the second person to resign from East’s top finance position since September.

School Board President Annette Johnson said Monday the position will remain vacant until June but that a retired business manager from an outside district will help out in the business office several days a week. The School Board is also expected to appoint an accountant who will serve as a fresh set of eyes overseeing the business department.

“It’s a little taxing right now, but it’s not bad,” Johnson said. “We just need the right people in the right positions ... . This is an ideal time to get a fresh set of eyes in there.”

In September, after a series of financial discrepancies began to surface, the district’s former finance chief, Jay Augustine, retired unexpectedly from his position of assistant superintendent of finance. The next month, Penny Halvax, Augustine’s secretary, was fired because of “discrepancies in record keeping for the district’s insurance,” according to the district.

McCluskey, a former special education teacher and certified public accountant, was hired in early September and took over after Augustine’s departure. As a certified Chief School Business Official with a license in accounting, School Board members felt, McCluskey would offer a much-needed new perspective on the district’s financial operations.

“I’m not sure what happened (with McCluskey’s resignation),” Johnson said. “But the business office is going through some growing pains ... . There is a lot of work there for whoever takes over.”

Johnson said problems that arose from Augustine’s time as finance chief have been rectified, and that the office is running well.

“The insurance (discrepancies) and credit card problems have been cleared up,” she said. “We’re doing pretty good.

“... Change is really hard, but if you don’t make any changes, things won’t get any better. That’s how we got to where we were.”

Johnson said that having someone help out in the office several days a week will be sufficient until McCluskey’s position is filled.

“I think it’s a good transition right now,” she said. “The ladies (currently) working in the department know the department like the back of their hands ... . They do their jobs, and they do them well.”

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