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Jan 31, 2020

Former Principal Guilty of Misappropriation of Funds at Excelsior High School

An audit of the Excelsior High School speaks poorly of the state of affairs at the high school. At the conclusion of an investigation, it was determined that a former principal is guilty of misappropriation and theft of school funds in the period June first 2017 to September thirtieth, 2018. Here is News Five’s Hipolito Novelo with a report.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

An audit commissioned by the Ministry of Education states that “Excelsior High School is in a very grave state and that it is a school that has fallen through the cracks and as such is open to such abuse as what transpired.” And what has transpired is what the (ad hoc) Investigative Committee found: the misappropriation and theft of some two hundred thousand dollars. The audit covers the period of June first, 2017 to September thirtieth, 2018.

Dawn Watters

The allegations were made against then principal; Dawn Watters who on February seventh, 2019 was placed on administrative leave while the committee was appointed and began reviewing the audit’s findings. On March thirteenth, 2019, the Board laid two charges against Watters: Misappropriation and theft of School funds and Bringing the teaching profession into disrepute. A tribunal was convened to the matter. The school presented its evidence and Watters, through her attorney and she was allowed to respond. The hearing began on March twenty-eight 2019. Despite preliminary objections by Watters’ attorney, Audrey Matura the hearing proceeded with a second session on April first. On that date, Watters advised the committee that Matura would no longer be representing her and that she needed time to find representation. The hearing continued on April third, and attorney Darrell Bradley joined Watters.

During the hearing, auditor George Swift revealed that he found that cheques were amounting to an excess of thirty-nine thousand dollars which were written out and not cashed as it would result in an actual overdraft of the School’s account.  The audit revealed that Social Security and Income Tax were withheld from the salaries of teachers but not paid to the respective institutions. One of the witnesses was former vice-principal, the now-deceased Alarice Andrewin. According to Andrewin, she did not know about the irregularities with social security and income tax or insurance until it was brought to her attention on more than one occasion by her colleagues. She said she inquired with  Watters who assured her that the monies would be paid.  According to Watters, it was determined at a BAPS meeting that they would try to convince the Ministry to return monies cut from schools that would then use to pay  Social Security and Income Tax. That plan failed.

The principal reportedly entered in unauthorized contracts. There is the case of twenty-five cheques totaling over sixty-five thousand dollars which were paid out in the name of the Principal. The cheques were cashed but there is no proof as to what the monies were used for and so the auditor concludes that the monies were not used for the purposes stated in the vouchers. For example, according to the report, a cheque for five thousand dollars was made out to Dawn Watters for roof works. However, there are no receipts to prove that the works were done.  Watters said while she took some photographs of receipts she did not get to take many as she feared being accused of falsifying invoices. Watters agreed that she decided to withhold the payment and use the funds for other purposes without the requisite authority. Watters admitted that she made unlawful decisions

Watters was found guilty of appropriation and theft of school funds on several instances and bringing the teaching profession into disrepute. As punishment, the committee recommended Watters to be demoted and that Watters should receive half her salary for six weeks.

The report also found that Excelsior High School has been neglected by the Ministry and the Board and as such children have suffered. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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