Former Baltimore Co. elementary principal charged with stealing from school system

The former principal of Edmondson Heights Elementary in Balto. Co. has been charging with stealing thousands

The former principal of Baltimore County's Edmondson Heights Elementary School has been charged with stealing about $15,000 from the school system, according to court records and school officials.

David Proudfoot, 37, was charged Friday in Baltimore County Circuit Court with theft, court documents show. The documents allege the theft took place between July 1, 2013, and Dec. 5, 2014.

Proudfoot, who left his post sometime late last year, has been working as an assistant principal for an elementary school in Seminole County, Fla., since January. Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Proudfoot declined to comment and referred questions to his Towson attorney, who could not be reached for comment.

But later Tuesday, Seminole County School District officials talked to Proudfoot. "When confronted with questions regarding the employment application he submitted to the district, he resigned," said Michael Lawrence, a spokesman for the district.

Proudfoot, who comes from a family of Baltimore County principals and educators, had been at Edmondson Heights for about a year and a half before leaving. He earned $119,889 a year. The school system declined to comment about the circumstances of his departure or what prompted an investigation of him.

Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Adam Lippe said the alleged theft involved "fraudulent reimbursements," in which Proudfoot said he was buying items for the school, but did not.

"The school system did a nice job of catching it," Lippe said. "The most important thing is for the school system to be reimbursed."

Spokesman Mychael Dickerson said Proudfoot is still an employee of the Baltimore County school system. He said the school system was not aware that Proudfoot had taken the job in Florida.

But "now that the charges have been filed, we are taking the necessary disciplinary action," he said.

Edmondson Heights' assistant principal, Juliet McDivitt, has been serving as principal since Proudfoot's departure.

William Lawrence, executive director of the Council of Administrative & Supervisory Employees, the bargaining unit for administrators, said Proudfoot is one of four Baltimore County principals or assistant principals who have been investigated this year.

"There are other principals under investigation for inappropriate fiscal management," Lawrence said. "The public trust in administrators is a critical component and one that we take seriously. Whenever there are accusations of misconduct, they should be investigated."

Lawrence declined to discuss individual cases.

Dickerson said that "investigations don't necessarily mean wrongdoing or guilt. ... If the school system gets information that there may be wrongdoing, we are going to investigate and work with the police as necessary."

Edmondson Heights, in western Baltimore County, has a high percentage of low-income students. It was Proudfoot's first job as a principal. He had previously been an assistant principal at three county schools and in Florida.

With Proudfoot at the helm, the school was one of 10 schools chosen to be a Lighthouse School, which meant the school competed with others to begin a program providing a laptop to every student in grades one through three.

But Proudfoot also had difficulties with staff at the school, which the teachers union was beginning to try to address when he left the job, according to Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.

"When we get a lot of complaints about a given principal, then we give it credence," Beytin said. "From this school, we had heard from several people. There were complaints about his management style."

Proudfoot's father, grandmother and stepmother all served as principals, and his mother was a student at Edmondson Heights, according to a 2013 interview with the Baltimore Sun Media Group. In that interview, Proudfoot noted that "the majority of my experience has been in Title I schools and I really get a lot of excitement from working with that demographic."

After graduating from University of Central Florida in 2000, Proudfoot began his career as a substitute teacher in Baltimore County. He spent four years teaching and two as an assistant principal in Florida before returning to Baltimore County, where he had lived part-time with his father while growing up.

In 2010, Proudfoot, then an Ellicott City resident, ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Howard County School Board.

Quintin Stevens, president of the Edmondson Heights Civic Association, said he was shocked by the theft allegations. The former principal was "very personable" and responsive to the association's concerns, Stevens said.

"We are totally surprised," Stevens said. "We never would've expected it from David Proudfoot."

When Proudfoot became principal at Midway Elementary in Seminole County, the school district tweeted an announcement of his hiring. It included a picture of him with school board members Jan. 27.

The Seminole County school district was not aware of the charges against Proudfoot or the circumstances under which he had left his previous job, Lawrence said.

But after a call from a reporter, he said the Seminole County superintendent had been informed.

That district requires three recommendations and a background check before hiring a new employee, Lawrence said.

If someone is charged with a crime, Lawrence said, there are "absolutely repercussions from our standpoint."

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