School district decision about Y Tech high school future may come at week's end

skennedy@bradenton.comJuly 14, 2014 

MANATEE -- A decision about whether the Manatee Y Technological High School will remain open will be made by the end of the week, YMCA officials said late Monday.

A Manatee County audit issued earlier this month that was highly critical of the YMCA's billing practices has prompted questions about the future of the high school for at-risk youngsters, which is operated by the Y.

After meeting Monday with the Manatee County Schools superintendent, YMCA Board Chairman Joseph A. Brannon said, "Today's meeting and discussion with Superintendent Rick Mills and his team was both open and thorough.

"We came to the table because we wanted to make sure that the interests of the nearly 200 students expected to attend Y Tech, and their parents, are faithfully represented," Brannon said. "The superintendent promised a decision by week's end, and we intend to remain a part of the discussion leading to that decision."

Steve Valley, a spokesman for Manatee School District, confirmed that a decision would be made this week.

"It was a productive meeting this afternoon between the district and the Y officials, and a decision will be made later this week," Valley said.

Asked if Mills could legally close the school unilaterally, or if the Manatee County School Board would make the final decision, Valley said he didn't know the legal particulars.

Word that the school might be closed came in the wake of the highly critical audit issued July 3 by the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller's office.

Although the audit report did not discuss the operation of the high school, YMCA officials said after it came out that they had been told by a school district official that they would be receiving a letter saying the school would be closed.

The audit found serious financial irregularities in the billing practices of those who operate Y programs under contracts with Manatee County government. The audit concluded that, among other things, the YMCA had falsified information supporting payments for YMCA 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 officials have said.

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

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