An investigation into $14,400 in missing student activity funds at Glenn Hills High School has determined that the school's former bookkeeper took the money, according to results released Wednesday.
The Glenn Hills inquiry spurred an audit of all Richmond County high schools, uncovering a pattern of sloppy bookkeeping.
Reluctant at first to release the worker's name, Richmond County schools Superintendent Dana Bedden, responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, identified her as Bridgette Thompkins.
Bedden said Thompkins had no other disciplinary issues in her record, has since resigned and paid the money back -- $3,200 through pay garnishment over about two months and the rest with the help of family.
The investigation began in April after a central office worker found irregularities in Glenn Hills' student activities account information, according to the superintendent. A new online accounting system made the tracking possible, he said.
Bedden said school Investigator Lt. Richard Roundtree, the school board attorney and the Richmond County District Attorney's Office determined the best approach would be to handle the case outside the court system.
He said Thompkins admitted taking some of the money and was remorseful, telling officials she used part of it to pay for medical needs. He said Thompkins agreed to pay back the money and resign.
Bedden justified the deal because "more important to us was getting the children's money back." He said the school system would have to pay legal fees if it went to court and might have more difficulty collecting should the worker be convicted and receive jail time.
During the investigation, Thompkins was assigned to a job at the school system's central office.
Bedden said that as a result of the case, the school system decided to audit all high schools' student activities accounts, which are funded through such things as locker rentals, school fundraisers and candy sales at sporting events.
He said the majority of money taken at Glenn Hills involved locker rental fees. Students are charged $10 a year to have a locker. He said half of that money goes to locker maintenance and the other goes to student activities.
So far, about half of the system's 10 high schools have been audited, and Bedden said that although nothing criminal has been found, several cases of sloppy bookkeeping were uncovered.
"We still have some procedural guidelines that aren't being followed," he said, noting that some schools have waited several days to deposit money from events instead of doing so the same day as protocol requires.
Bedden said the investigation of all high schools is continuing, and next year officials will audit middle schools. Elementary schools will be audited after that.
Bedden plans to sit down with Glenn Hills Principal Wayne Frazier today to discuss the missing money. He said the principal is ultimately responsible for what occurs in a school, but he doesn't see the latest incident as a firing offense.