Students from a Camden, N.J., elementary school hosted bake sales and sold candy door to door last year to raise money for field trips to the zoo and other places. Teachers reached into their own pockets to help. But their principal and his top aide kept the money, a grand jury alleges.
“It is a sad day when leaders in our schools are charged with stealing from their students,” New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner said last week in announcing state indictments of Michael Hailey, the former principal of H.B. Wilson Elementary School, and his top administrator, Patricia Johnson.
The March 19 indictments accuse the two of pocketing $14,298 collected for 13 field trips. The trips took place between May 2005 and May 2006. But no fundraising was necessary. The Camden school board, in accordance with its own policy, had paid for the trips, officials said.
Mr. Hailey and Ms. Johnson were also accused, along with a teacher and another principal, of attempting to bill the Camden school board more than $25,000 for leadership-training sessions that never took place.
Mr. Hailey’s lawyer, Craig Mitnick, told local reporters that he anticipates future indictments will enable Mr. Hailey and the others to stop serving as the “scapegoats” for higher officials in the district. Ms. Johnson’s lawyer did not return a call for comment.
Both principals and Ms. Johnson were suspended with pay last May, and retired in July, the attorney general’s office said. Camden school district spokesman Bart Leff said the teacher was reprimanded and is no longer employed by the district.
The charges emerged from an ongoing probe into allegations of cheating on standardized tests in the 17,000-student district.
An investigation into alleged test-score alterations at Dr. Charles E. Brimm Medical Arts High School concluded in January, when an investigator for the Camden board found the district’s supervisor of guidance and testing had participated in score-tampering there. He was suspended with pay pending further action, Mr. Leff said.
The investigator found no basis for the Brimm principal’s claim that an assistant superintendent had pressured him to alter mathematics scores. The principal’s contract was not renewed, he said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2007 edition of Education Week