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Mystery surrounds missing money of Sunlake High athletic boosters

Deputy superintendent Ray Gadd says Sunlake is implementing procedures to prevent future problems.
Deputy superintendent Ray Gadd says Sunlake is implementing procedures to prevent future problems.
Published Jan. 18, 2017

Slightly more than $20,000 collected by the Sunlake High School Athletic Booster Club cannot be accounted for because of lax record keeping and poor reporting, an internal audit by the Pasco County School District shows. Officials are preparing to ask law enforcement to investigate.

This incident comes just more than a year after the school's Band Boosters treasurer was arrested and charged with stealing more than $46,000 from that group. She pled guilty and has repaid the school.

According to the new audit report, the athletics booster club collected $98,697 in revenue between August 2014 and December 2015 but deposited $78,364 into its accounts. The group has since stopped its operations, and the school has begun procedures to prevent future problems, deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said.

"What we have is a situation where we can identify that money came in, but we can't verify where it went," Gadd said. "We just can't figure out who misappropriated what."

Some of the details are specific.

For instance, the booster club had several unexplained lengthy delays in making deposits from money collected at game concessions, sometimes with no sales reported at all despite large crowds.

Other red flags listed in the report include coaches' inability to get regular detailed records of their team account balances and "no documentation that the (concession change) fund was counted and verified by the parent volunteers."

"We're going to submit this audit to the (School) Board, and then we're going to turn it over to the Sheriff's Office," Gadd said. "It may be possible the money was spent appropriately. But we have no record. We don't know."

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Demolition and renovation work on Land O'Lakes High School is slated to begin this spring, perhaps within days of students' final classes on campus.

But the project will continue through the 2017-18 academic year and beyond, even with students in attendance. That decision came after parents complained about a scenario that would have closed the campus for a year.

What does that mean for the way classes and activities will occur during the construction?

Principal Ric Mellin announced Friday on Twitter that officials will hold a parent and community meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 in the school gym. That's where school officials will share the new design for the school, a 1970s-era relic with many structural and infrastructure problems, as well as the operational plan to keep students safe as the work takes place.

For those who can't make the meeting, the district will stream it on its Facebook account and also make a video recording, which will be available on the district and school YouTube channels, Mellin said. Any documents shared at the session will be posted to the school website and displayed at the school by the following day.

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NEW PRINCIPALS: Danielle "Dee Dee" Johnson, an assistant principal at Wesley Chapel High School since 2011, has been chosen as the school's next principal.

Todd Cluff, most recently assistant superintendent overseeing schools in northwest Pasco County, has taken a new assignment as principal of Seven Springs Elementary School.

Johnson replaces Carin Hetzler-Nettles, who was appointed to run Cypress Creek Middle-High School, a new campus that opens in the fall. From 2006 to 2011, Johnson worked at Zephyrhills High School, first as a math teacher and then as a graduation enhancement coach. She joined the district in 2004 as a Centennial Middle School math teacher.

Cluff, a onetime principal at Sand Pine Elementary in Wesley Chapel, takes over for Vicki Wolin, who is now principal of the new Bexley Elementary School. He announced just before winter break that he wanted to return to a school-based job after working in district administration.

He added that he wanted to work in a school that faces significant challenges. Seven Springs Elementary recently dropped its state grade from an A to a D, the biggest decline in the county.

UNION LEADERSHIP: The United School Employees of Pasco president and vice president-instructional both have drawn challenges to their re-election bids.

Gulf Middle School physical education teacher Don Peace, a member of the USEP executive board, has filed to run against first-term president Kenny Blankenship. Irvin Education Center learning design coach Phil Altshuler, also an executive board member, has turned in papers to oppose vice president Lisa Mazza, a third-grade teacher at Wesley Chapel Elementary.

The challenges come as the USEP has declared an impasse in contract negotiations.

Vice president-school related personnel Lee Beville and secretary-treasurer Cheryl Vinson filed unopposed for new three-year terms.