Jill Green was the founding principal of Explorer Elementary Charter School – a K-5 school located in the same building complex as High Tech High School in Point Loma. That was until she resigned at the end of April this year.
Until she resigned, Green earned $110,277 annually. But allegations made by the charter school’s governing board that Green abused her expense account were raised, and these concerns ostensibly led to her departure. The board alleged that she spent thousands of dollars on business meals, wine, gifts, and even dog treats over the last two years on her credit card, expenses that were covered by taxpayers.
The San Diego U-T’s Watchdog obtained statements and expense reports under the California Public Records Act for Green, and totaled her expenses of $37,868 for a 2-year period from April 2009 through March 2011.
Green and the board signed a separation agreement, giving her $59,000 in salary payments through late October, plus other compensation. Green had been given a $10,000 performance bonus by board trustees just this last December.
The manner in which the board handled the action behind “closed doors” caused one trustee to resign, and at least one parent to complain of a lack of transparency.
The U-T’s Watchdog found the following:
- $14,896 was spent on food, with an average meal bill of $78.40. Receipts for many of the meals indicate the purchase was for a staff lunch or board member meeting, and some cited hospitality or professional development.
- Approximately $3,317 on gift cards and flowers for employees and others. The state Constitution bans gifts of public funds. Green purchased 31 gifts in the last two years, 17 of which were valued at more than $100.
- $727 was spent on wine, often accompanying dinner. A $500 outing to Wine Steals in Point Loma on the last day of school in 2009 included $198 for 12 bottles of wine, plus one glass.
- $450 on treats and toys for Green’s dog Gus, who frequently visited the school.
- Other expenses include school fittings, such as cubbies and classroom rugs, and phone bills, which in 2010 cost $263 for two phone lines on a family plan.
Green has since made a statement and maintains none of the charges were for personal use. In a statement, Green said:
“Business lunches/dinners and providing food for faculty, staff and board events have traditionally been part of my job as principal. I was never told by anyone that this was wrong or a misuse of funds, and in fact I felt (and it was said or implied by the board for all the years prior to 2011) that this was an integral part of my job as ‘CEO’ of the school.”
“Business dinners often included wine both for me and whomever I was dining with, which was appropriate under the circumstances of these meetings. The restaurant venues were mid-range, respectable restaurants that are appropriate for business dinners, not high end restaurants and not bars or other inappropriate venues.”
(The restaurants reportedly used by Green included Bencotto Italian Kitchen, Pizza Nova and the Come On In! Cafe.)
The U-T reported that Explorer Elementary is a part of San Diego Unified and submits annual budgets to the district. Its finances are handled however through a partnership with the San Diego-based High Tech High charter system.
High Tech High’s credit card agreement does bans alcohol and gift card purchases for employees, but permits meal purchases within professional development groups or those charged out of business necessity. This agreement had been signed by Green. The chief financial officer for High Tech High had signed off on her expenses. At its June meeting, the charter’s board strengthened its expense policies, and now the board treasurer will review the principal’s expenditures quarterly.
The trustee who resigned in June, Tiveeda Stovall, stated that she was uncertain whether the board had acted appropriately in how it reported out its action from closed meetings held before Green’s departure.
Further, the U-T reported:
While alcohol purchases by public schools are banned under state law, charter schools operate under a “mega-waiver,” exempting them from most state laws governing public schools in the California Education Code. They are bound by the Charter Schools Act, which does not address alcohol purchases. …
Founded in 2000, Explorer Elementary Charter School has been recognized as a California Distinguished School by the California Department of Education and serves 340 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Twenty-five teachers are employed at the school, which emphasizes social and emotional intelligence. More than 1,200 students are typically on the wait list….
Nearly $38,000 over two years? That’s an average of $19,000 a year, or not even $1600 a month. I mean $450 spent on her dog, Gus – after all, he was brought to school and petted by the students.
Is this all much to do about nothing? Are the allegations really only about small peanuts? Is Jill Green being hounded by the Watchdog? Or is it doing its job? Does it seem like no one was awake at the financial switch at the school? What do you think?