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NC DPI Financial Officer Retires As Critical State Audit Is Released

Right after a scathing audit report went public, North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction is seeking a new chief financial officer. 

The state auditor’s report on DPI was posted Thursday, after months of private talks between auditors and education officials. It listed seven problems with the department’s oversight of federal grants, including one that could cost the state $18 million that could otherwise be spent on special education.

State Auditor Beth Wood summarized the findings: "DPI is really falling down on the job of making sure that when they pass the money off, that whoever gets it is using it like they’re supposed to."

On Friday, Superintendent Mark Johnson blamed some of those problems on a previous chief financial officer hired by the Board of Education, and said the CFO he hired in 2018 is fixing the problems.

"I took over as head of the agency in the middle of 2018 and immediately started making the changes that the agency desperately needed to end some of the systemic dysfunction that had plagued this agency for years," Johnson told WFAE on Friday.

What Johnson didn’t mention was that Barbara Roper, the officer he hired in September 2018, was retiring as he spoke. 

DPI says she was not terminated and has no disciplinary actions on record. According to Roper's LinkedIn page, she had previously served in several other state departments, including the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Department of Administration and the Wildlife Commission.

The job is now posted, with applications closing Friday. The pay range is approximately $77,000 to $147,000.

Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.