Saturday, September 17, 2011

Principal to return to job at charter school in Richmond, Virginia


The embattled principal of the state's first charter elementary school is heading back to work Monday, even though a Virginia State Police investigation into alleged embezzlement at the school is ongoing.

Pamela L. Boyd is being returned to her job as principal at the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts after more than three months of paid administrative leave, said Kristen Larson, vice president of the Patrick Henry board.
Larson said the decision was made in conjunction with Richmond Public Schools administrators and was done "in the best interest of the students."
Larson would not elaborate on what that meant, and she declined to say whether the Patrick Henry board wanted Boyd back.
Richmond Public Schools spokeswoman Felicia Cosby confirmed that Boyd would return to Patrick Henry on Monday. Cosby said Boyd's administrative leave would end that day.
When asked in the past about the chance of Boyd being assigned to a different school, Cosby had said that Boyd is assigned to Patrick Henry.
The school is semi-independent. Its board sets policy on the school's academic direction, but the principal and teachers are city school system employees. The Patrick Henry board can make recommendations about hiring and firing personnel — its members interviewed Boyd and recommended that she be hired in March 2010 — but decisions are made downtown.
Boyd was placed on leave in June on the eve of the school's first graduation ceremony after news spread that a city school system audit of Patrick Henry lunch money and student activity accounts found "lack of management oversight, inaccurate monthly financial reports, failure to follow established procedures, an ineffective filing system, and incomplete documentation of transactions."
The accounts were registered to the city school system but controlled by Boyd.
"These internal control weaknesses increased the risk for a loss or fraudulent transactions," Debora R. Johns, chief of internal audit services, wrote in a memorandum accompanying the 11-page report.
Johns did not find evidence of fraud.
Meanwhile, the state police have been investigating an allegation of embezzlement involving the school. That charge may not be related to the student accounts. As of Friday, that case was ongoing.
Larson said that the state police contacted Patrick Henry board members when the case was opened but that to her knowledge, none of the board members had been interviewed or were otherwise involved in the case.
In the months since Boyd was put on leave, the Patrick Henry board has instituted a number of changes to its accounting procedures — notably, instituting a policy prohibiting staff members from unfettered control of any accounts — and is in the process of implementing an electronic account-management system.
"That will greatly cut down on the cash and the checks," Larson said. "That should make our accounting less cumbersome."
Larson said parents were notified of Boyd's return during an open house Thursday night.
She said that interim Principal Loretha Taylor would stay on indefinitely to help Boyd ease back into her job.
"A lot has happened here since [June]," Larson said. In addition to the new financial controls and systems, she said, "we've added three classes, hired six teachers and added 60 students."

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