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Education

Investigative audit accuses Oklahoma charter school superintendent of misspending more than $250,000

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The now defunct chart school Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla.

A special investigative audit released Tuesday afternoon reveals that the leader of defunct charter school Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy misspent a quarter of a million dollars.

Oklahoma state auditor and inspector Cindy Byrd's office says former SeeWorth superintendent Janet Grigg gave herself and upper level staff more than $210,000 in unapproved bonuses.

She also spent more than $41,000 on personal expenses, including purchases with QVC, HSN, Dillard's and Priceline, and unauthorized ATM withdrawals at a local casino.

“The result is an incredible disservice to our taxpayers and the students,” Byrd said in a written statement. “School choice is important for students in Oklahoma and should be protected. However, the criminality of this cannot be ignored.”

The audit states that a GMC Yukon vehicle owned by the school should have been transferred to Oklahoma City Public Schools, but was unaccounted for. It was found at Grigg’s residence eight months after her employment was terminated by Seeworth, and repossessed by OKCPS.

SeeWorth’s board of education voluntarily gave up its charter and shuttered the school in 2019. That was largely due to financial and oversight concerns.

The online news outlet NonDoc reported that Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has opened a criminal investigation into the matter.

In the wake of the audit report, state schools superintendent and Democratic candidate for governor Joy Hofmeister called on state lawmakers to strengthen Oklahoma’s oversight of charter schools.

“This is yet another example where parents, students and Oklahoma taxpayers are failed by a less-than-fully-engaged school board and loose state laws regarding charter schools,” she said in the written statement. “A lack of structure and accountability in state law has allowed for this apparent fraud. Charter school boards aren’t even currently required to undergo training for their fiduciary roles. We continue to call for the legislature to strengthen oversight of charters."

Lawmakers have taken a friendly stance toward limited regulation of charter schools for decades. But this is the second scathing audit of a charter in the 13 months, after Byrd’s office found Epic Charter Schools misspent millions.

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