Upset parents are demanding answers from the San Francisco Unified School District after uncovering an alleged “embezzlement” scandal.
The group, made up of mostly low-income Asian immigrants, is alleging that more than $8,000 of Parent Teacher Association money was stolen. The group raised the money for the association to organize children’s activities, such as camping trips, at E.R. Taylor Elementary School.
The allegations center around bank statements provided by Virginia Dodd, the principal of the school, to a new PTA board at a January meeting. According to the parents, the Portola District branch of Bank of America later said the statements for the months of August to November 2005 were falsified and provided copies of the originals, which all show much lower balances.
Edmund Jew, a community activist speaking on behalf of the parents because many do not speak English, said the parents grew concerned about record keeping after they saw money being taken away in a paper bag late last year at a fundraising event.
“I think these documents were altered just like the bank manager said,” Jew said, adding that the parents grew more suspicious after the former PTA president, Veronica Maya, resigned and moved to Hayward when they asked for an internal audit. Calls to Maya were not returned and an old e-mail address did not work.
Dodd said questions should be directed to San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Lorna Ho. “The matter is currently under investigation,” Ho said. “We take these matters extremely seriously and are committed to getting to the bottom of the matter and figuring out exactly what occurred.”
The school district is working with the District Attorney’s Office, according to Ho. Bilen Mesfin, of the District Attorney’s Office, said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
Still, a resolution is not coming quick enough for parents.
On Monday, camera crews and reporters crowded around Jew along with Ellen Zhou, a translator for the parents, and Amy Chang, a school counselor and a parent of two students at the school, outside of the school as students were ending their day.
Parents said that if the matter is not resolved quickly they would get lawyers involved, if they could afford it. Zhou said the parents are so concerned about the money because they are all low-income families.
One fifth-grade teacher, who did not want to be identified, was upset because he said his students were worried about what was going on.
“It’s pretty bad that the press is out here making our school look bad when the school is dealing with it,” he said. “I understand what happened here was wrong, but I don't think how you’re dealing with it is right.”