December 22, 2014

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Lorain’s Arts Academy must learn accounting, state says

LORAIN — The founder of the Arts Academy in Lorain raised a red flag with state auditors when she purchased services for the school from her own company.

Alexis Rainbow has written seven checks totaling $15,129 to Art Fusion Curriculum for the development of the school’s education plan since 2004, when the school, which uses art and music to teach, was founded. She then endorsed the checks on behalf of the company, according to state auditors.

Emily Frazee, spokeswoman for state Auditor Mary Taylor, said that while Rainbow’s actions aren’t illegal, it does give the appearance of impropriety, and auditors recommended that Rainbow seek out other companies in the future.

“We took a good look at this and thought this could be seen as a possible conflict of interest,” Frazee said.

Rainbow can still use the services of her business if she can prove she sought out other companies and they did not offer what she needed for her school.

“This happens sometimes when you have a unique curriculum,” Frazee said. “So as long as you can show that you looked for outside services, you can still use your own company.”

The Arts Academy on Leavitt Road is a community school that receives state funding. Although the school has been on academic watch since it began three years ago because its overall test scores were less than 80, they’ve gone up by several points each year and the overall score was 78.2 last year.

The findings from the auditor’s office were released Thursday following the school’s first state audit.

The audit began last year, but it could not be completed until now because the school did not submit the necessary records and was labeled “unauditable” by the state as a result.

Even when the school did turn over documentation, the material provided still was incomplete and key information to support certain purchases was missing, Frazee said.

“The school received the label of ‘disclaimer,’ which is actually worse than ‘unauditable,’ ” she said. “That means their records were so completely insufficient that we could not reach an opinion on their finances.”

Despite the label, there was nothing suspicious found in the school’s finances, and the school was told to do better for the next audit, which will be scheduled soon, Frazee said.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.