YMCA official: We're to meet Monday with schools superintendent about tech high school

skennedy@bradenton.comJuly 12, 2014 

MANATEE -- Manatee Family YMCA officials are slated to meet with Manatee School District Superintendent Rick Mills on Monday to discuss the future of the high school for at-risk students that the YMCA operates.

YMCA officials have said they were told by school district official Mike McCann that the contract under which the Manatee Y Technological High School operates would be canceled.

"We're excited at the chance to give the superintendent our views," YMCA attorney Shawn Arnold said Friday. "We're looking forward to discussing it."

Neither Steve Valley, the school district's spokesman, nor Mills, returned calls seeking comment Friday.

Word that the school might be closed came in the wake of a highly critical audit issued last week by the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller's office that found financial irregularities in the billing practices of Y programs that are operated under contracts with Manatee County government.

The audit concluded that, among other things, the YMCA had falsified information supporting payments for Y after-school and anti-gang programs. The Manatee County Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation into the matter.

The tech high school, at 922 24th St. E. in Bradenton, has been open two years, with a budget of a little more than $1

million annually, YMCA chief executive officer and president Sean Allison said.

Allison said he hoped the school district would give Y officials a chance to explain its benefits before closing the school.

YMCA Board Chair Joseph Brannon has said in a statement that closing the school would imperil vital programs serving more than 200 high-risk children and their families.

Brannon wrote: "We've now been told that, despite being in the midst of negotiations on a new contract, that some Manatee County School District staff wants to use this situation to justify cancelling the YMCA's contract with the Manatee Y Tech High School."

The audit report was issued July 3 by the office of R.B. "Chips" Shore. The report substantiated allegations that the YMCA had falsified information to support funding it got from Manatee County, but did not address the subject of the high school's operation. A complaint that was filed about the school was included as an addendum to the audit.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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