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Group seeks audit of Houston public schools

HOUSTON — A group of Houston School District residents has asked the Minnesota Auditor's Office to look into the district finances surrounding the payments to former Superintendent Kim Ross.

Kevin Kelliher, who was a Houston County commissioner for 16 years and led the petition drive, said there is a question of payments of about $88,000 to Ross, his business associate and school employee Steve Kerska and some office personnel.

"Review of board minutes does not include any authorization of these above contract payments," he said.

It will present a copy of the petition to the board at 5:30 p.m. today. He said the auditor's office will be compelled to do the audit.

The auditor's office said it does not confirm or deny whether it has started an investigation.


Kim Ross was superintendent when the district started an online school. Kerska was the school's director of secondary options. The two men developed a private business called Ambient Learning to act as consultants for other public schools to develop online curriculum. Amid allegations that they didn't inform the school board when they created Ambient, Ross announced March 23 that he would leave the district when his contract expired June 30; he was put on administrative leave June 8.

When Kelliher and others looked into the district's finances, they found the payments to Ross and Kerska. Unsatisfied with the school board's reaction, they started the petition.

The district will have to pay for the audit, he said. A check of past audits found they cost from $1,800 to $24,000. "We frankly want our money back" and believe it will be enough to pay for the audit, he said.

Ron Evenson, chairman of the Houston School Board, said he has heard about the petition. "It's his right to do that," he said. Kelliher will have two minutes to present information on the petition; there will be no discussion of it, he said.

He said the district is looking into the payments. "The whole thing is unresolved," Evenson said. "We are still working on it … Nothing has been settled yet."

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