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$26,000 vanishes from charter group’s student activities fund; NOPD on the case

Nearly $26,000 has gone missing from Lake Area New Tech Early College High School’s accounts, the charter group that runs the school announced Tuesday.

The New Beginnings Schools Foundation discovered the disappearance of $25,833.52 from a student activities account during an internal audit. Because the investigation is ongoing, the four-school network didn’t provide any insight Tuesday on what might have happened.

New Beginnings notified the New Orleans Police Department and the state Legislative Auditor.

No Lake Area field trips or enrichment activities will suffer. The foundation that runs the schools has replenished the account in full, according to a press release.

The missing cash was announced nearly two months after the network learned of an unexpected windfall. Due to a change in state law that brings an increased allocation to Orleans Parish schools, New Beginnings is due for a total of  $1.9 million in deferred revenue.

The loss is not the first announced this year for a charter management group. In February, the Legislative Auditor’s office revealed that a KIPP employee had embezzled about $70,000 during the 2012-2013 school year. The employee was fired, and the school recovered the money through an insurance claim.

In the 2011-12 school year, a Lusher Charter School employee was accused of embezzling $25,000. Lauren R. Hightower returned the money, but she was charged with theft from a program that receives federal funds, a federal crime. Hightower pleaded guilty in October and was later sentenced to five years of probation and $2,100 in fines and assessments.

A former business manager at another charter school, New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy, was charged with taking $31,000 from that school in the 2011-12 school year. Darrell K. Sims pleaded not guilty; the case is still pending.

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • nickelndime

    $26,000 ($25,833.52) vanishes from UNO’s New Beginnings Schools Foundation (NBSF)school: From a historical perspective, did we forget about the $600,000 that vanished from Langston Hughes under the watchful eye of former CEO John Alford, or are we not speaking of the incident anymore because it is out of the 4-5 year public’s attention-span window? The NOPD has been notified. Well, that’s a relief! Maybe it will take them off of the city streets for a while and cut down on the number of tickets issued for expired brake tags, licenses, lack of proof of insurance, broken tail lites , headlights out, etc. Does the NOPD know (have a clue) who allegedly absconded with the student activity money? Do the folks over at Lake Area New Tech Early College High School (well, that’s a mouthful) know? How about how? This information is about as well hidden as the 02/10/2014 release from the LLA’s office about the $69,840 theft from one of the KIPP New Orleans Inc. “schools” (neither the name of the school nor the employee is identified, but the method surely was – sounds good – too bad it didn’t work, from the employee’s perspective).