By Brent Woronoff, The Observer
The Flagler County School Board approved its annual funding of the Flagler Youth Orchestra Strings Program. Now it needs to find a new program director as well as a new artistic director and two more music instructors/conductors.
Cheryl Tristam, the FYO’s program director since its inception 18 years ago, resigned on July 3 saying in an article she wrote for FlaglerLive — her husband, Pierre Tristam’s, news site — that conduct toward her and the program by some School Board members “has been reprehensible and inexcusable.”
The school district has been auditing the FYO’s bank account since it discovered in May that the account, operated by Cheryl Tristam, was actually an internal account using the district’s tax-exempt ID number. The account had been set up 18 years ago by a former Flagler Schools Superintendent Bill Delbrugge. The district had lost track of the account and thus was not annually auditing it as required.
On Tuesday, July 25, the board voted 4-0 to fund $78,880 to pay the salaries of the FYO’s contract employees and provide facilities for the program at Indian Trails Middle School. The program’s internal account, which had been previously thought to be an outside account, will fund the remaining $21,000 for the salaries.
The board approved contracts for part-time instructors Lacy San Antonio, Dr. Pamela Mireles and Jeremy Bartlett, who indicated they wanted to continue in their roles with the FYO. But the board will now have to find replacements for Tristam as well as Artistic Director Joe Corporon and instructors Victor Rivera and Niki Mousikos, all of whom have also left.
Jack Lisenby, a former member of the FYO who graduated in June, urged the board during public comment to get “everything lined up” for the program. “There’s auditions and recruiting emails and instrumental rentals. So much needs to be done,” he said.
Earlier in the day, at the School Board’s workshop, Board Attorney Kristy Gavin presented a letter from attorney Mark K. Logan, of Tallahassee firm Sniffen and Spellman, concerning the funding of the FYO. Board member Willy Furry had asked for an outside opinion on the legality of the program’s structure.
Logan wrote that the firm’s review of the program “suggests that the operation and funding of the district’s program, in and of itself, does not present any operational issues other than the failure of the district’s FYO account to be subject to normal annual audit and review.”
Logan noted that the annual memorandum of understanding with the FYO “is something of an oddity” considering the FYO is actually a district program.
“It appears that the district is entering into an MOU with itself,” Logan wrote.
The practice is questionable due to contractual concerns, he added.
“Apart from the MOU issue, we are comfortable as to how the program is currently constituted and operated given that all standard financial controls are in place as to the new FYO account and that the account is now subject to standard audit,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the district is trying to gain control of the FYO’s website and have requested all of the account’s bank statements.
The board plans to discuss the law firm’s findings as well as the audit results at a workshop on Aug. 1.