DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - October 12, 2007

Monte Vista ASB president says funds under control

Past student moneys were spent to improve school without OK by classes

by Natalie O'Neill

Despite hundreds of red fliers that popped up on the Monte Vista campus last week - fingering Principal Becky Smith for past misuse of student funds - the student body president told the school board Tuesday that student leaders are now very much in control of their own spending.

Trustees said in light of a recent letter they received from anonymous Monte Vista parents with concerns about spending, they expected public comments from parents about the recent uproar on campus.

Instead, the only feedback at the meeting came from the high school's student body president Abby Van Muijen, who detailed the new procedures when it comes to empowering students on their spending.

"It's not an issue any more .... Everything must be approved by our class. Our meetings are really official," she said.

She added that the fliers don't portray the truth of what's going on among the current student body leaders.

"It's almost disrespectful. This is my school and I don't want it put in a negative light," Muijen said.

The letter to the trustees stated that complaints about the abuse of student funds had "fallen on deaf ears" and questioned why "disciplinary action" had not been taken against the principal.

Fliers posted last Thursday showed Principal Becky Smith's name with a cross through it and read "Monte Vista High School Misuse of Student Money. And She is Still There?"

The message was referring to an issue that emerged last spring, when Smith was found to have spent $100,000 of funds raised by students since 2004 without OK'ing it with student officers.

The money was raised by three classes, through activities like dances and car washes, and was supposed to go to whatever improvements or activities the graduating classes decided on.

But the money went to landscaping and computers for future classes without student leaders' approval.

"The kids graduating didn't authorize those funds, the administration did," said Terry Koehne, spokesman for the school district.

By the time the class graduates, the money should be spent. And there are no rules for what happens if it is not.

"I don't think there is a process for that. The thing is, it's not supposed to happen," Koehne said.

School district staff reviewed the case and decided against harsh consequences for Smith, who has worked in the district for almost 34 years.

"Based on our review, we don't think it merits disciplinary action," Koehne explained.

In part, the judgment call was made because there was no personal gain on her part.

Trustee Greg Marvel said Tuesday that the issues surrounding misuse of student funds had already been addressed. Hearing Van Muijen's report of the current student spending plan helped highlight that the problem had been solved, he said.

"(The public) can be assured that everybody involved has been talked to, counseled and appropriately trained," Marvel said.

School board trustees said they saw no need to look into student fund misuse, considering there was no public comment and the letter they received was unsigned.

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