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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
The Tennessee comptroller's office has been notified of possible money mishandling by Grundy County Schools, according to a committee report made at Thursday night's school board meeting.
The committee — made up of two board members — was formed to supervise all internal investigations and report directly to the county's board of education to ensure transparency in the situation involving five students recently charged with attempted aggravated rape.
The students — a freshman, three juniors and a senior — are accused of attempting to rape a 15-year-old freshman teammate with the metal handle of a dust mop in the school's football fieldhouse sometime before 6 a.m. CDT on Oct. 11.
Board member Chris Groom said the committee found evidence suggesting the school's football money may not have been handled properly. The finding came after Groom asked Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey for a statement showing how much money was being deposited and when.
He said it took Kinsey seven days to produce the statement, and it ended up being just one sheet of paper.
Groom said he asked high school Principal Deidre Helton, who had been counting and signing off on the money collected from football game tickets and the concessions stand, but she said she hadn't signed off on anything, and she didn't know who would be in charge of that.
According to the policy, Groom said, the money is supposed to be counted and signed off on by two people and "the principal shall deposit funds daily, if possible, and no later than three days after receiving."
He said Helton suggested the money handling might fall under the purview of the football team officials, so Groom asked interim football coach Nick Meeks if he saw any money collected after the last football game. Groom said Meeks reported not touching any money.
"I asked him, 'Well, did we make any deposits at all?'" Groom said.
He said Meeks told him he got a call a week after the ball game from one of the board members saying he had a check for him and to meet him at a Waffle House.
"I don't know about you guys, but that's not appropriate control of a system and has nothing to do with the way we need [to] do business with gate money and concessions," Groom said. "We've got to get some better controls of our football system, our concessions stand, our gate, our leadership."
School board Chairman Robert Foster asked Thursday if Groom would be willing to hold a workshop with all parties involved to get to the bottom of what is happening to the money.
"We are going to have to do something with our system," Groom said. "There is no controls. This is pathetic, for seven days to get back when a board member asks for ticket sales."
After the board meeting, Groom said board member Gary Melton had been seen running the concessions stand and that Melton is Kinsey's brother. Kinsey, however, declined to confirm either of those claims.
Board members decided to hold the workshop to discuss control of the money on Nov. 13 at 6 p.m.
Also discussed at the board meeting was a recommendation by Kinsey to modify some wording in the elementary and high school's handbooks about the zero tolerance policy for students who have committed level five offenses, which include possession of a weapon or illegal substances, battery and/or sexual battery, including rape or attempted rape.
"There needs to be a statement that says in the handbook the director of schools has the authority to modify this expulsion on a case-by-case basis," Kinsey said.
As it's worded now, the handbook simply says the schools have a zero tolerance policy and makes mention that the director may evaluate expulsions on a case-by-case basis, but those statements are not on the correct page. Kinsey said the modification was necessary for the handbook to be in line with state laws.
Foster later added that the modification was especially necessary because "not all zero tolerance is zero tolerance, if you get my drift without me coming out and saying that."
Multiple people repeated that statement but did not offer any clarification.
"It's just one statement in the handbook that needs to be added," Kinsey said.
Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327.
Follow her on Twitter <a href="/https://twitter.com/HughesRosana" target="_blank">@HughesRosana</a>.
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