Thursday, January 5, 2012

School Fraud with No Oversight

by Gary Snyder

In the year leading up to the overhaul of Chicago Public Schools leadership, the school district was beset by troubling instances of fraud and employee misconduct, including $1.13 million in improper benefits paid to retired teachers, systemic abuse of the federal free lunch program at a West Side high school, and a scheme by a central office employee to use school funds to buy items he later exchanged for cash.  Employees took advantage of lax oversight in the free lunch program to enroll their children despite earning six-figure salaries. In other cases, employees were circumventing the district’s computer system to access pornographic material online or visiting dating sites, the report found. One assistant principal at an undisclosed high school who was also employed by a local travel agency steered more than $22,000 in school funds to the business, an obvious conflict of interest. Another employee – who admitted his children were using CPS computers while at college and living in New York – has since resigned.

Other allegations include:

•    A teacher misappropriating as much as $56,486 from money collected from parents in a tuition-based after-school program and more than $40,000 taken from an elementary school’s PTA checking account. The teacher was discharged and convicted of felony theft.

•    Another teacher took a vendor check in exchange for books and deposited it in his own personal bank account rather than the school’s account. The teacher was later charged with numerous counts of theft.

•    A vendor for a mentoring program at a high school was double dipping for the same services by being a subcontractor for another entity contracted by another public agency.

•    Loss of a valuable package of Chicago Transit Authority fare cards by an employee who said he left them on the dashboard of his unlocked delivery truck.

•    An elementary school teacher using a CPS email account to solicit sexual partners for himself and his girlfriend on Craigslist. The teacher received a six-day suspension and a written warning.

•    A CPS research technician who stored seven pictures of non-frontal male nudity on her CPS issued laptop. The technician was laid off and designated ineligible to be rehired.

•    A member of two Local School Councils whose wife’s company sold nearly $4,000 in sweatpants to both schools.  

•    An elementary school teacher charged with videotaping men and boys in a water park locker room.

The inspector general reported that between 2007 and 2011, payments for holiday, vacation and sick time totaling more than $1.13 million improperly were collected by 185 retired teachers hired as substitute teachers.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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