The Anchorage School District says "tens of thousands of dollars" were stolen by four of its employees in the form of lunch money accounts, activity and library fees, among others.
Superintendent Carol Comeau says the four have been terminated and one of them, 43-year-old Gayle White, has been charged with theft and falsifying business records. Charges are pending for the other three employees.
"We are taking this very seriously, and frankly, I'm shocked," said Comeau.
Comeau says White was a secretary at Chugiak High School. She had been working there two years, but had been with the school district since 1998. The investigations first began when White’s coworkers alerted their supervisors that money was missing.
Charging documents show that White told detectives she stole an amount that “might be” closer to $5,000 a school year. White claimed she started stealing at the end of 2009.
According to the documents, when a detective asked her how she got away for stealing for several years, she replied that she would keep the money and the yellow receipt that would otherwise go to ASD Accounting. The other two copies would go to the student or parent and to the attendance office at school.
Anchorage police say all four employees allegedly stole independently, but investigators believe one of the four, who worked at Chugiak High School, may have also been working with White.
Detectives say it was the first investigation that prompted others and led to the discovery of the case at West High School.
The other two worked at West High School and O'Malley Elementary.
The school district says it was alerted of a problem at O'Malley when the school principal received more than 20 calls from parents about low lunch money accounts for their children.
“Parents started being concerned that their childrens’ lunch ticket accounts were short, and they knew they paid more money,” said Comeau. “So they couldn’t understand why their child’s account didn’t have enough money in it.”
The district says it is now looking to automate the system to move away from paper receipts and into a central system that would provide more oversight. Comeau says the district is going to re-train all of its staff who handle cash and checks.
Anchorage police say the four former employees had no prior record of criminal activity.
Contact Christine Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org