The NOLA Public Schools district has ordered James M. Singleton Charter School to rerun any background checks completed after Feb. 1 of this year after the Central City school’s former CFO was arrested on 12 counts of injuring public records following an investigation into suspicious background checks.
The school has a deadline of June 15 to show it has completed new background checks for those employees, after a number of errors were discovered by district officials during a records review this spring.
At an Orleans Parish School Board meeting on Tuesday, district Chief Portfolio Officer Thomas Lambert said background checks will be a “critical focus area” moving forward.
Lambert provided a year-over-year accountability review of site visits at charter schools. The reviews focus on things such as whether required translation services are offered, proper signage for the Fair Labor Standards Act and other laws are posted, and staff have proper credentials. The review also includes insuring background checks were properly conducted.
“The one area we saw less compliance was background checks and fingerprints,” Lambert said. “This doesn’t mean they didn’t do them — It may not have been through the correct agency.”
“Our critical focus area here is going to be background checks,” he said.
At Singleton, district officials first noticed the school had failed to run background checks for all employees in December. During a follow-up review in March, they found more problems — including background checks that could not be verified by the Louisiana State Police and others that had duplicate audit codes, a number that should be unique to an individual.
In late March, Catrina Reed resigned as CFO as district officials continued to investigate and instructed the school to contact authorities. In late May, the New Orleans Police Department issued a warrant for her arrest for 12 counts of injuring public record and one count of theft. She allegedly kept $431 that was intended to be spent on background checks.
Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office records indicate she was booked on June 1 and released from jail following an initial hearing the next day.
On Tuesday, Lambert said the warning letter issued to Singleton in March “remains open.”
The district has asked Singleton to “resubmit any background checks to the Louisiana State Police, which were run prior to February 1, 2021 and provide evidence to that effect by June 15th,” district spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo wrote in an email to The Lens.
Singleton Principal Erika Mann did not immediately respond to an email inquiring how many employees required new background checks or how far along they were in the process.