'Unauthorized' McCracken Middle bank account was PTO's

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comDecember 4, 2012 

A bank account in H.E. McCracken Middle School's name that Beaufort County school officials have called unauthorized was used by the school's PTO, according to public records and interviews with people familiar with the account.

The account was rarely used and had a balance of about $2,000 during the past two years. It was uncovered during a review of policies and procedures related to personnel issues, district officials said last week.

The district's review coincides with the absence from the school of principal Phillip Shaw, who has been on paid leave since Nov. 8. Despite earlier saying he would be back soon, district officials now say Shaw will not return until their review is completed.

Denise Gibbo, the principal's secretary, also has been absent from her job.

The district has given no timeline for completing the review.

On Friday, district protective service coordinator Chris Barrow filed a report with the Bluffton Police Department about the bank account. According to the report, the account at S.C. Bank and Trust was in the school's name, but statements were sent to Gibbo's home.

Gibbo said that sometime last school year the PTO's treasurer signed the account over to her.

The former PTO treasurer, who asked to be referred to only as Theresa,confirmed she had signed over the account to Gibbo. She could not recall what month the switch took place.

Theresa said she signed over the account because her daughter would not be attending McCracken this school year. The PTO was small -- maybe three or four people attended meetings regularly -- and none wanted to oversee the account.

Theresa's husband was also the chairman of McCracken's School Improvement Council. The couple were uncomfortable with Theresa continuing to handle the PTO money with little oversight. That, along with their daughter's impending graduation from the school, led them to sign over control of the account.

Theresa said Gibbo volunteered to help until a PTO member could take over the account.

"There was no one else that would do it," Theresa said. "She just kind of fell into it. It wasn't like she was asking me for it."

Theresa said there had never been more than $2,000 in the account in the two school years she managed it. The money was mostly used for teacher luncheons and other teacher support, she said. Money would be deposited into the account from PTO fundraisers.

Theresa said monthly statements on the account came to her home during the time she managed it.

"It was how it was always done," she said. "With me never being part of a PTO and not knowing, I took this over thinking that was fine."

She said she was not sure, but that she did not remember seeing "PTO" on the account's name.

Theresa said she has not had anything to do with the account since she handed it over, along with past statements, a ledger and checkbook, to Gibbo.

"Once I handed it over, they never contacted me about it. It balanced, and they had everything it needed," she said. "They never asked me about anything."

Gibbo said that when she took over the account, the statements were mailed to her home. She kept all the statements -- unopened -- in a box at the school, along with the ledger and the checkbook.

The account was basically defunct, she said. Only one check had been written on it within the last few months, she said.

The police report indicates the account, open since 1999, was discovered Nov. 27 by the district. Annette Ballard, a guidance counselor at the school, gave Barrow a statement from the account, which she said Gibbo left on her desk.

School district spokesman Jim Foster said Monday that Ballard did not give the statement to district officials; her name was included in error on the police report. He did not know who handed over the statement, but the district provided the correct name to police late Monday.

Barrow has been investigating reports of policy violations by Shaw and Gibbo, according to the police report. Interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm confirmed last week that the district's review of the school's policies was prompted by "personnel issues" related to Shaw. Rosswurm said Friday she did not have details about Gibbo's absence.

District officials said Friday that even if the account was legal, it still violated district policy.

According to district policy, each school should have only two bank accounts in its name -- one for emergencies and one for student activities. Any other account in the school's name would be unauthorized, district chief of operations Phyllis White has said.

Foster said Monday that regardless of the account's origins, the matter had to be handled by police.

"We found a checking account in the name of the school, and not a PTO," he said. "And we couldn't answer those questions (Who opened it? Who had access to it? How much money was in it?). So we had to turn it over to police."

Related content

  1. Beaufort County School District discovers unauthorized McCracken Middle bank account; Nov. 30, 2012
  2. Beaufort County School District: McCracken Middle School principal to return soon; Nov. 15, 2012
  3. School district mum on principal's absence; Nov. 14, 2012
  4. McCracken Middle School principal on leave; Nov. 13, 2012

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