PARKERSBURG - Wood County Schools must decide how to handle vending machines at schools after learning the contracts for those machines are invalid.
An audit of the district's 2010 finances and food service programs found school principals were signing vending machine contracts that by state policy must be approved by the school board.
Connie Roberts, finance director for Wood County Schools, briefly spoke to the Wood County Board of Education in February about the audit findings. The findings, she said, meant those contracts were null and void because they violated state policy.
Photo by Michael Erb
Vending machines sit in a hallway at Parkersburg South High School. Wood County Schools must rebid all of its vending machine contracts this summer after an audit discovered the contracts were being negotiated by individual school principals, which violates state policy.
"This is something that should have been dealt with three years ago," when the issue first came to light, she said. With the more recent food service audit, the issue again came to the forefront, with state auditors warning the violation could cause problems with some federal funding.
According to West Virginia Board of Education policy, "public schools are not legal entities and school personnel do not have the statutory authority to enter into bidding contracts or obligate funds. All contracts must be approved and signed by the county board of education or the county superintendent if approval authority has been delegated to the superintendent."
"Indeed, we did not have a contract approved by the board," said Wood County Superintendent Pat Law. "We needed to change that circumstance. It was something that should have been changed previously."
Law said he was unsure when the problem first came to the attention of the administration, but said officials are beginning the bidding process for the coming school year.
"Right now we are preparing a request for proposals for quotes on the vending services," he said. "Our purchasing office has that together and it is going out to the various vendors. We hope to have a new contract in place this summer."
In the meantime, the school system continues to operate the existing vending machines, which follow state and federal nutrition guidelines and limited hours of operation before and after the school day.
"We have been given permission by the state nutrition office to continue having the machines in place," Law said. "They will be there for the remainder of this (school) year."
Roberts said the existing contracts varied in length between schools and vendors. Some were one-year contracts, while others could span multiple years.
Law said he was unsure how the change in the contracts could affect other services provided by companies, such as scoreboards sponsored by companies and displaying their logos.
Law also said he was working with administrators throughout the county to explain the proper procedure for handling vendor inquiries and to ensure all schools follow state guidelines when dealing with vendors.
"They are all aware we are making these changes," he said.