A state audit examining a missing $22,000 in student activity funds from West Ridge Middle School in West Monroe has been turned over to law enforcement. Roger Harris with the Legislative Auditor’s Office says over $11,000 was collected from eighth graders between 2013 and 2014 for a trip to Disney World. He says there was one teacher in charge of collecting the money for the trip, Jodie Dean.
“She says she didn’t take the missing funds, but the point is she was the one that had custody of the missing funds, and we think it’s possible the law may have been violated in that regard,” Harris said.
Harris says there’s also another $10,000 in unaccounted money that never made it to the bank. The school’s bookkeeper, Stacey Rogers, was responsible for making deposits and keeping records of the funds. He says they’re still trying to piece together what may have happened to the money.
“We ended up with a teacher who may have had her hands on the money, and we ended up with a bookkeeper that may have had her hands on the money. So not really sure exactly which one of those took place,” Harris said.
The Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office is handling the investigation into whether criminal charges are warranted. Ouachita Parish School Board Superintendent Dr. Don Coker says it’s always concerning if there’s a misappropriation of money at a school because these are taxpayer dollars.
“As we go forth and we work with the District Attorney, we’ll be in full cooperation with the DA’s office as to getting to the bottom of everything that has gone on,” Coker said.
Coker says this incident occurred several years ago, and they’ve taken steps to ensure the school’s spending has been monitored. He says the school board holds its employees to a very high standard, and they’re trying to do what’s right.
“If it comes out that there has been misappropriations, we’re looking for full restitution by whatever parties are responsible,” Coker said.
Reportedly, Dean has been placed on administrative leave, and Rogers has since retired. OPSO did not issue a comment on the audit, but a spokesperson says their investigation is ongoing.