By Dylan Johnson
A surprising crime
Members of Dougherty Elementary School in the quiet city of Dublin, California received surprising news this past Wednesday when a central member of the school community who worked for a known security company was arrested on charges of embezzlement and grand theft.
Jaylene Leslie, a parent at Dougherty Elementary, and worker for ADT Security was hardly a predictable candidate for this crime. In addition to volunteering tirelessly for Dublin’s public schools, Leslie had served as the President of the Parent Faculty Club (PFC) at Dougherty Elementary School and was a member of the Dublin Partners in Education Board of Directors.
Dublin Unified School District superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke was one of the many left completely surprised by Leslie’s theft.
“You will never find a more consistent and trustworthy volunteer with a strong work ethic,” said Hanke at an award ceremony honoring exceptional employees and volunteers in 2011.
Concerns over irregularities
However, concerns coming from board members of Dougherty Elementary School’s Parent Faculty Club shed light upon actions that seemed like quite a far cry from the dedicated and tireless volunteer that most people knew.
In 2012, board members of Dougherty’s PFC had concerns about Leslie and hired an independent accounting firm to conduct an independent audit of the finances. The firm’s audit revealed significant discrepancies, which prompted the PFC board members to contact authorities in November 2012. Further investigation by Dublin Police Services revealed an alleged embezzlement of roughly $38,000 occurred between July 2011 and August 2012.
As a result of these findings, Leslie is currently being held for a bail of $20,000 at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
These financial irregularities were made public in May. PFC Board members Rachel Burgess, Elizabeth Carey, Swati Chopra, Nilima Deshpande, Christine Hamilton, and Alison Harney were joined by Dublin Unified School District Stephen Hanke, attorney Catherine Baker, and Detectives Alan Dumatol and Dawn Sullivan from Dublin Police Services.
Minutes from the meeting outline the way in which Dougherty Elementary School’s PFC Board “has spent the entire year trying to fix things.” They have been cooperating fully with the formal investigation launched by Dublin Police Services and have also created contracts for future board members that extensively outline the various board positions and the responsibilities that come along with each one.
Several parents in attendance expressed concern over Dublin Unified School District’s attentiveness to potential red flags. When parents brought concerns about Leslie to the principal and then the superintendent, as is standard procedure, they were not taken seriously, and as a result of this, they are unsatisfied with the current protocol.
In regard to how reports of financial impropriety will be handled in the future, parents will still be required to go through the principal and then the superintendent, as is the current standard protocol for such concerns.
“The District provides training for PFC board members, but has no jurisdiction over the PFC. The PFC is responsible for conducting their own investigations. You may want to consider becoming a PTA in the future,” superintendent Stephen Hanke added in an answer to concerned parents.
This incident has been shocking to the Dublin school community, but DUSD is confident in its ability to successfully move forward.
Janet Lockhart, Executive Director of Dublin Partners in Education, assured community members that the impact of Leslie’s embezzlement will not extend past Dougherty Elementary Schools.
“I am confident in saying that Jaylene has never served on a committee or in a position to interact with DPIE funds,” Lockhard said, “In fact, she has been absent most of this past year with some serious health issues. She resigned in June because of her lack of attendance at Board meetings and some upcoming surgeries she has scheduled. We have no concerns regarding Jaylene’s board membership and our accounting measures. Our money is managed by a CPA firm in Oakland. We have safe guards in place to prevent abuse by anyone.”
What’s more, Dougherty Elementary School reportedly has enough money to fund field trips and other special events for the upcoming school year.
Though not all parents may be satisfied with the protocols and responsiveness of the school district, community leaders seem to be determined to not let this incident set their community back too far.