Dayton school board gives treasurer contract extension, sizable raise

Dayton’s school board unanimously approved a two-year contract extension and a sizable raise Thursday for treasurer Hiwot Abraha, just two weeks after the district got a clean audit from the state of Ohio.

Abraha took over as treasurer of Dayton Public Schools in summer 2016, after a previous board ousted her predecessor, Craig Jones. Before that, Abraha was assistant treasurer for almost five years, and a senior accountant with DPS for three.

FEBRUARY: Dayton school district gets best audit in years

“We feel good about where things stand,” school board President Mohamed Al-Hamdani said Thursday. “But part of our model under this new school board is continuous improvement. It took a lot of work for us to get that clean audit and we expect to get those every year. We’re very proud of the work that the treasurer has done.”

The audit came on the heels of an improvement in DPS’ bond rating last fall. The Fitch agency upgraded Dayton’s default bond rating from BBB+ to A-, which could lower the district’s borrowing costs in the future.

“I know me and my department have worked hard to move the district, and we’ll continue to do that,” Abraha said. “Everything is moving in the right direction. We are improving.”

2017-18 AUDIT: Schools paid workers who never showed up

Abraha’s previous contract was a three-year deal with a base salary that started at $130,000, plus a $15,000 annuity for each year of the contract. The new deal, from August 2020 through July 2022, calls for an annual salary of $152,500, plus annuities of $25,000. Both contracts called for the board to pay Abraha’s share of her retirement plan contributions, as many Dayton-area school districts do for their top administrators.

In the prior three years, each of DPS’ state audits had included findings for recovery of misspent money. Some of those findings stemmed from employees getting paid for periods they didn’t work.

And despite the clean audit for 2018-19, the past year was not perfect, as a phishing email fooled school payroll officials into changing Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli’s direct deposit information last February, allowing scammers to get one of her paychecks.

NOVEMBER: Dayton schools’ bond rating improves

Al-Hamdani said the district is always working to improve processes and procedures, with the clean audit showing some of that progress.

“We have money in our bank account,” he said. “And we’ve been in the black for a long time, which hasn’t been the case in this district historically, so we’re very happy about that.”

When superintendents or treasurers are in the final year of their contracts, school boards have to either extend or non-renew their contracts by March 1, or the contract automatically rolls over for another year under Ohio law. Abraha’s contract was to expire this summer. DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli’s contract goes through July 2021.

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