Life imitates art: PTA crime wave continues

Update: Read the editorial.

Volunteer groups are susceptible to embezzlement, especially during hard times. It’s an issue in CHAIN GANG ELEMENTARY, and out there in the real world, the latest case comes from New Jersey. Brian Freskos reports in the StarNewsOline:

Embezzlement charges directed against two area women active in parent support organizations that strive to better education underscore the financial vulnerability of volunteer groups when safeguards are lacking or neglected, experts said.

Deputies in New Hanover and Brunswick counties drew warrants earlier this month, accusing the women affiliated with the Sunset Park Elementary PTA and the Lincoln Elementary PTO with stealing thousands of dollars from their groups. Though filed within a day of each other, authorities say the cases are unrelated.

The allegations raised questions about the strengthening of financial protections in an era where experts have noted an anecdotal rise in white-collar crimes. Those interviewed in the past week believe the upswing is at least partially attributable to economic hardship.

Authorities charged Dana Leigh Brooks, 38, with 12 counts of embezzlement over accusations she stole more than $5,000 from Lincoln’s PTO between February and June. She came to the attention of authorities after the group received multiple complaints from parents concerning a recent fundraiser where ordered items were never delivered. Sgt. April Stanley, a spokeswoman for the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, said that when the funds were examined, it was discovered the goods were never paid for and there was a discrepancy in the finances.

Freskos goes on to deal more deeply with the vulnerability of volunteer groups and some of the remedies being pursued. To read more, click here.

There is such a place …

. . . as Chain Gang Road.

It’s in Eastover, South Carolina (shock!), which is southeast of Columbia.  Kids who live on Chain Gang Road go to Webber Elementary School, which is kind of funny. (Look at the cover of CHAIN GANG ELEMENTARY and you’ll see why.) There’s also a Chain Gang Hill Road near Spartanburg. That one is supposedly haunted, not by the ghosts of prisoners, but by the spirits of young girls victimized by the Gaffney strangler.

National PTA took 112 years to elect male president. Or did it take that long for a guy to volunteer?

As a guy and former PTA president, I’m very conscious of gender roles and disparities in education and parent-teacher groups. Still, I was surprised to see a news item put out by the National PTA, proudly recounting the accomplishments of its first-ever male president, Charles J. “Chuck” Saylors, who is now ending his two-year term. For details, click here.

Believe me, I know that PTA leadership is overwhelmingly female, but I didn’t realize it had been exclusive from 1897-2009. You can build up a lot of stereotypes in that amount of time.

I deal with this issue in Chain Gang Elementary, when Richard Gray fights gender stereotypes and breaks a 20-year “females only” tradition at the Malliford PTA to begin his ill-fated tenure. The last guy to take the job had messed up big-time, so people are watching Richard with a skeptical eye, waiting to see if he can break the curse. 

Are the hostilities that arise caused by his male attitudes, or is something else at work at Chain Gang Elementary? It will be interesting to see what readers think.

Another PTA embezzlement story

This one from Los Angeles has been hanging around a while, and it’s not the only one in La-La land, but it’s a significant amount of money, and the culprit has to pay it back. She was also sentenced to two years in prison. A hundred grand is a lot of license plates.

From the LA Times:

A former Los Angeles Unified School District administrative assistant who admitted stealing money from a Torrance elementary school and PTA funds was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $116,000 in restitution.

Lisa Ann Castro, 47, was ordered by a Superior Court judge to pay $93,400 to the LAUSD and $23,000 to Halldale Elementary School in Torrance, where she worked, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

She pleaded guilty in February to one count of misappropriating public funds.

Prosecutors said Castro stole money from the PTA account and two other school accounts, in part by forging signatures on more than 100 checks.

Ah, those golden memories–Hey, what are they doing?

Actually, the most disturbing part of this story is the big-brother implication carried in the story’s last line.

From the Associated Press:

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. – Students at a California high school are being asked to turn in yearbooks after a pornographic photo was discovered inside the memory book.

San Bernardino County investigators were notified Tuesday and Big Bear High School employees and detectives began collecting the yearbooks in the mountain community at Big Bear Lake, 70 miles east of Los Angeles.

The school dance photo shows a 17-year-old boy’s hand inside the clothing of a 15-year-old girl and may involve sexual penetration.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman says the couple is in the background and went unnoticed by the yearbook adviser.

Bachman says most students have returned yearbooks for editing. Detectives are contacting students who haven’t turned in yearbooks with a warning they could face a charge of possessing child porn.