In 2008, administrators for the School of Creative and Performing Arts, known widely as "the School," withdrew $65,568 in reserve associated student body (ASB) funds, meant to finance non-curricular events, and deposited the cash into the school's general fund account.

According to a June 2 report from the San Diego County Grand Jury, those funds were not spent on non-curricular events for students but were used for equipment and supplies for classes and a staff Christmas party, which included free gifts such as staff mugs and polo shirts.

"The School" was not the only academic institution in the district to misspend ASB funds.

"Approximately 75 percent of district schools, audited by the district auditor, misused ASB funds for curricular and administrative purposes and for benefit of faculty," read the report.

A few examples of the unauthorized withdrawals were found at Hoover High School, where administrators withdrew nearly $35,000, at Longfellow Elementary, where school staffers pulled out more than $16,000, and at Mission Bay High School, where over $35,000 in ASB funds were disinvested.

To prevent further misuse of student funds, the grand jury recommended that school administrators and ASB advisors be informed and trained that ASB funds are not to be used "for non-ASB purposes, such as curricular, instructional, or other administrative purposes or for the benefit of faculty."

The grand jury also discovered through the audits that district officials misused over $4.16 million in district funds, $38,000 of which was misspent on vacation time, $49,000 for illness and other personal reasons, and $456,208 on salary overpayments and leave of absence.

To avoid future misallocations, the grand jury recommended that the district beef up it's auditing department.

Included in the June 2 report was a section that focused on illegal school fees throughout the district. At many schools, students are asked to purchase uniforms, instruments, to pay for banquets, and to pay their coach's salary.

Some examples from the report: $1833 per student for the cheerleading program at Madison High School; $100 for the swimming program at Serra High School; $180 for the water polo program at Mission Bay High School; $4250 for the marching band at Clairemont High School.

In the case of student fees, the grand jury recommended that additional training be provided to school personnel and to establish criteria for the assessment of student fees for materials and equipment.

To read the report, go to sdcounty.ca.gov.

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Well, that's very interesting, Dorian, thank you. I recall an article here where a woman was kicked off a school governance team because she insisted those student fees were illegal. I'm glad to see the school district agreed with her, and I hope she is reinstated and that she is given an apology.

Won't hold my breath.

If you think these abuses are bad, just look at charter schools. They get little or no oversight from the chartering districts; out of sight, out of mind. The little advisory boards that "run" those schools lack the savvy and resources to either know what is proper or improper, and to prevent abuses. So, the administrators, with their "site based" decision making run them like little kings, spending the money as they decide.

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