During a special meeting Tuesday evening, the Oklahoma City School Board voted to fire the principal of Bodine Elementary, following an investigation into her management of public funds.
District officials have led an investigation against Veleasha Johnson Stewart, 46, since February to determine whether the principal negligently managed school funds. Teri Bell, executive director of students' support services, headed the investigation. Bell told the board the investigation revealed fundraising activities with inadequate or no documentation for received donations that were deposited into the school activity fund.
Under Stewart's leadership, Bodine Elementary, at 5301 S Bryant, carried out multiple fundraising events during the past year. According to district policy, raised funds are required to be deposited into the activity fund. Bell interviewed school faculty and learned most teachers were unaware of what happened to the raised funds because the money could not be found in the activity fund.
Stewart also was accused of using school funds for at least one of the fundraising activities as well as wrongfully charging admission to parents.
Additionally, Bell investigated claims that a $700 Kmart gift card the school won from a Facebook contest went missing under Stewart's care. She found that Stewart used her own money to replace the gift card and distributed it to Bodine's teachers instead of asking her supervisors what she should do with the money.
Bell showed the results of her investigation to Superintendent Karl Springer, prompting him to write a letter to the school board recommending Stewart's termination.
“The lack of adherence to District Policy, Oklahoma School Law and Federal Program guidelines lead to the recommendation for dismissal of Stewart,” Springer wrote. “Inappropriate use of public funds is unacceptable in the Oklahoma City Public Schools district. Such action by this board and myself, however uncomfortable, is required to retain the communities' trust and confidence.”
Stewart told the board she acknowledges she didn't follow some procedures while managing school funds but argued she has made up for all money lost under her supervision.
“I have done this job for 15 years in this district,” Stewart said during the meeting. “The reason why I do this job is to educate children. I have given more money than what I've been accused of misappropriating just this year.”
Stewart worked at Bodine Elementary, 5301 S Bryant Ave., for one year. She was previously the principal of Van Buren Elementary School, starting in 2005.