By Jennifer Paterno
I am the current President of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Belle Terre Elementary School. I was elected PTO President in May 2019 when the former PTO President agreed to step down after eight years. I accepted the position with the goals of making positive changes in the school and increasing parental involvement.
Shortly after reviewing the few financial records I was given, it appeared that there was prior mismanagement of funds, including funds missing from PTO accounts and fundraisers.
Although I had been a part of the PTO board for many years, there was never financial transparency from previous leadership. Financial records were never made available to members, despite numerous requests for them.
After reviewing records from banks and vendors, and taking over the leadership of PTO events, evidence of suspicious activity was accumulating.
Concerned for the PTO members, the children, and the school, I sought the advice of an attorney who advised me to come forward and bring the information I discovered to the school district for further investigation.
I met with the school board’s attorney, who advised me that a thorough investigation would be conducted. That investigation is still ongoing, and I have not received any information regarding the details or outcome of that investigation.
As newer, more serious evidence of wrongdoing emerged, I felt compelled to file a report with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. As the new president of the PTO, I felt it was my duty to protect the PTO by having the appropriate authorities investigate this further.
My hope is that law enforcement and the school district will be able to properly resolve these matters so we can start fresh and develop new goals and strategies, leading to the development and growth of a thriving, successful Belle Terre Elementary School PTO.
The children at Belle Terre should not suffer or be disadvantaged in any way because of the inappropriate behavior of a few. It is my sincere hope that, together, we can build a new partnership between our community, our parents, and our school, to work together in nurturing and molding our children into successful students and responsible, contributing members of our society.
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