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Audit finds school officials stole, misused $91,000 raised by students

From Kristen Hamill, CNN
  • Principal resigned in May
  • Funds used for teacher retirement parties, locksmiths
  • Students raised money with bake sales, donations
  • Comptroller says money should be reimbursed

New York (CNN) -- School personnel at a Bronx high school misused or stole more than $90,000 raised by students for their school year activities, according to an audit released Friday by the New York state comptroller's office.

Thomas P. DiNapoli's audit found that most of the missing money -- more than $60,000 -- is owed to vendors dating back to the 2004 school year for various school paraphanelia items like caps and gowns and championship rings.

In total, $91,216 was missing from John F. Kennedy High School's general school fund, an accumulation of student or school raised funds that support extracurricular activities, including senior prom and yearbook expenses. Students held bake sales and solicited donations to help supplement the fund.

"This was the students' money," DiNapoli said in a statement. "The raised it selling cupcakes and asking for donations. The students worked hard to raise this money. Whoever is responsible should be published."

Principal Anthony Rotunno resigned in May.

"When we confronted Mr. Rotunno with the draft audit report a month ago, he resigned," Department of Education spokesman Danny Kanner told CNN. He "will never work in the New York City Department of Education again."

Kanner said there is an ongoing investigation regarding the innappropriate use of the funds.

Further misuse detailed in the audit include over $7,000 used for unauthorized teacher retirement celebrations and over $700 on locksmiths for teacher keys. Additionally, according to the audit report, Kennedy High School's treasurer bounced almost $29,000 in checks, unaware that the school's general fund account was overdrawn.

The audit, which spanned two years from July 2007 to June 2009, was part of a larger audit of New York City schools investigating how they handled their general school fund accounts, according to DiNapoli's release.

DiNapoli has recommended that the city department of education review how the missing money disappeared and ensure that the school's general fund account is reimbursed.

CNN was unable to reach Rotunno or other Bronx school officials for comment.