Saturday, January 17, 2009

Omaha Parent Group Embezzlement
Part of Disturbing National Trend

The alleged embezzlement of $4,700 from the Parent-Teacher Organization at Florence Elementary School, 7902 N. 36th St., seems like a ton of money for a low-income area. But it's actually small potatoes compared to the alleged embezzlement of more than $800,000 from a Kearney public-school foundation (see GoBigEd.com earlier this week), and the overall rate of school embezzlements nationwide.

For an eye-opening glance at this problem, just google "school" and "embezzlement," or "PTO" and "embezzlement."

Uff da! Hundreds of citations.

Why is this happening? It used to be that PTO groups were led by the most credible, reliable, admirable people in any given community. And that may still be true, most places. It also used to be that the gym or school library were packed with parents on PTO meeting night. Not any more, for the mo9st part.

In most schools today, the number of people who are willing to regularly volunteer and provide those necessary checks and balances for fiduciary oversight, such as PTO funds, has dwindled. It is very tough to recruit officers at most schools. The more capable people, mostly mothers, are for the most part, working, at least part-time, or engaged in other volunteer activities.

Consequently, you get more people "on the edge" -- who aren't quite as experienced and stable as in yesteryear -- who aren't working and thus may have more time than money -- and may manipulate other parents and the school staff into thinking that they are highly efficient when in reality, they're crooked.

In a situation like that, the temptation to steal and cheat is more powerful because it looks like you're more likely to get away with it . . . since nobody's looking.

Just another reason that each and every parent ought to be doing something to volunteer at school, if for no other reason than to keep each other honest.

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Embezzlements have gone up in recent years, apparently, in part due to the proliferation of the crack cocaine of gambling, slot machines and casino games. Not only in schools, but in churches and businesses.Another reason to oppose the current proposal for slot machines in Nebraska and for actual imprisonment of these embezzlers where they can take addiction treatment programs.(Some are receiving probation only, a bad signal.)
This is a very difficult situation for all schools. So many families do not know where to begin or how to start serving in schools.

The family is a critical component to any child’s life. When it comes to education, no greater statistic stands truer today than the achievement gap between students whose parents are involved in their education process and those who do not have that support. Personal responsibility, safety and education are key elements to bringing up the next generation.

After 10 years of experience leading a volunteer program in my children’s elementary and middle schools, Schools And Families Engaged (the S.A.F.E. TEAM on Campus) was launched in 2008 to meet the needs of schools and families. Many of the school's families do not know where to begin in school. Many parents today never had an example of their parents supporting the school let alone they may not have enjoyed their personal schooling experience. Why would they have a desire to serve? You only know what you have experienced.

Make time to check out our site www.thesafeteam.com . On the About SAFE page, click on the 40 Developmental Assets link. This will tie in all the benefits of families and communities supporting their students both in school and out of school.
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