Española Valley High School Assistant Principal Veronica Dean filed a report with the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office after an audit revealed over $53,000 of electronics were unaccounted for within the school.
The report, taken by Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Barnes, does not indicate when the equipment may have gone missing, or if anyone is suspected of stealing it.
“Ms. Dean told me that some time between May of 2018 and present time, there were several items missing from an inventory that totalled (sic) $53,074.52,” Barnes wrote. “Ms. Dean told me she did not have any idea of who took the items.”
The items included two cameras, eight desktop computers, 14 laptop computers, two printers, a projector, a server, 61 tablets and two televisions.
District Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez said in a phone interview May 20 that at least some of the equipment had been purchased with Carl Perkins Vocational and Technical Act funds by former teacher Terri Strauss.
She said Strauss had been employed by the District as the Distributive Education Club of America (DECA) sponsor, and there were some serious concerns at the time about her use of funds.
Strauss took a group of students to the International Career Development Conference in April 2016, in Anaheim, Calif., but according to Gutierrez, the students never actually made it to the conference.
“They never went to the conference,” Gutierrez said, “She left them at Disneyland and went off and played golf with her husband and this, that and the other.”
A previous Rio Grande SUN article states she resigned in September 2017 amid questions about her use of the federal funds.
“On the day that she was supposed to meet with me to provide her side of the story, about an hour before the meeting, she resigned,” Gutierrez said.
Her teaching license was later revoked by the New Mexico Public Education Department.
Some of the missing equipment, 38 items, are listed with Strauss’ name.
“I noticed that some of this equipment was assigned to the DECA (Distributive Education Club of America) class,” Gutierrez said.
She said that after Strauss left, another teacher was hired, but then had to leave for personal reasons. That meant that there were multiple teachers assigned to the class which likely contributed to the missing equipment.
Gutierrez was quick to say that the equipment was not necessarily stolen, but that the District audit revealed serious deficiencies in inventory practices, that have since been remedied.
“Because we didn’t have good inventory controls and procedures in place, that’s well-defined in the audit,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve put things in place...with policies and procedures that just weren’t in place for last year’s audit. It doesn’t mean necessarily that it was stolen, it just means that we’ve not been able to locate it.”
Some of the equipment is old enough it could have been aged-out, or retired by the District and the inventory list was never updated, she said..
Gutierrez said that is likely the case with much of the equipment purchased prior to 2017.