Barrow school board says bookkeeper embezzled funds
Person's name not released; board lends $25,000 to make up shortfall

WINDER - A former bookkeeper at Holsenbeck Elementary School in Winder is under investigation by the Barrow County Sheriff's Department, accused of embezzling school funds.

Tuesday, the Barrow County Board of Education approved a $25,000 loan to Holsenbeck to help cover its operating expenses.

Neither school nor sheriff's officials released the person's name Tuesday, and no arrests have been made in the case, according to Chief Deputy Maj. Murray Kogod. More information in the ongoing investigation is expected to be released Thursday, Kogod said.

An audit last spring revealed the missing funds, said Lynn Stevens, District 5 school board member.

"We don't even have a total together yet," Lisa Leighton, spokeswoman for the school board, said. "It could be significant. A lot of the missing money came from fundraising events, and the $25,000 will replenish the money they expected to use."

Under the terms of the loan, Holsenbeck Elementary will repay the money as soon as it can.

The school board held a training session Tuesday for all Barrow County principals and bookkeepers, Leighton said.

"These principals have to check and doublecheck because they are ultimately responsible for their money," Leighton said.

Dr. Jeannie Oakley, Holsenbeck principal, was not implicated in the investigation.

"It was done in such a way that she had absolutely no awareness of it," Leighton said. "She is ultimately responsible for the money, so she is taking it hard."

Oakley could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

"It is so unfortunate," Leighton said. We are a small community and our schools are close. We are like family."

Class size resolution

Although the state has set teacher to student class ratios at 28 to 1, Barrow County schools have a little flexibility. In cases of critical need, the core classes - math, social studies, foreign languages and language arts - may rise to a ratio of 32 to 1, the board voted Tuesday.

"It would cost us 10 teachers and almost $2 million without that flexibility," Saunders said.

In other business:

A request that the school board donate about 11⁄2 acre to be used as a community outreach center was tabled until the board's next meeting.

Superintendent Ron Saunders told the board that its attorney, Wayne McLocklin, said the board cannot legally donate property.

"We'll have to look at a lease or sale and our liability issues," Saunders said.

The property is located behind Winder-Barrow Middle School and once held a city playground. Officials with the Kingdom Community Outreach envision a community outreach center on the vacant lot that would keep kids occupied after school. A boot camp for suspended students and parenting classes would be part of the program, according to Kenneth Cooper, spokesman for the organization.