The former principal of Baltimore's storied Western High School was indicted Monday on charges that she stole more than $61,000 from the school system — most of it from a fund meant to pay for student activities such as the prom.

A Baltimore grand jury indicted Alisha R. Trusty, 38, on 10 counts of felony theft and one count of misappropriation by a fiduciary. A new principal has been appointed at Western, but a city schools spokeswoman declined to say whether Trusty was still on the system's payroll.

Advertisement

"Public school principals are trusted and relied on by the school system, students and parents to always act in the best interests of their students," State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said. "Betrayal of that trust by a principal who steals student activity funds is a particularly reprehensible offense that cannot be tolerated."

Western is the oldest all-girls public school in the nation. It routinely places all its students in college. Several years ago, it was designated a National Blue Ribbon School. Its graduates include former state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

From February 2011 to January 2014, Trusty used the school's Student Activity Fund account debit card on numerous occasions to purchase personal items and pay personal bills, including legal fees and her Baltimore Gas and Electric bill, according to the indictment.

The indictment further alleges that, while on sick leave and still being paid by the Baltimore school system in June 2014, Trusty received a paycheck from another educational institution, The Teaching Trust, based in Dallas.

Trusty could not be reached for comment. Davitt said prosecutors were trying to locate her.

She is the second city principal in as many years to face criminal charges of abusing a school's student activity fund. Last year, former Coppin Academy Principal William L. Howard II, 37, pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to stealing more than $10,000 from the fund at Coppin Academy High School. He was sentenced to four years of probation and 150 hours of community service and to pay back the money.

Davitt said student activity funds are set aside for a variety of expenses. "It's supposed to be money for the students," he said.

The school system's Office of Legal Counsel referred the matter to the State Prosecutor's Office after internal auditors discovered irregularities in Trusty's use of funds, prosecutors said.

Public records show Trusty has had several judgments and liens filed against her in recent years, including one case in which she was ordered to pay about $11,000 to an auto finance company, Regional Acceptance Corp.

Monday's indictment alleges that Trusty stole $3,600 to pay a private law firm bill and $1,275 to pay a BGE bill. She also took about $40,000 for other personal uses, the indictment states. Additionally, Trusty fraudulently obtained reimbursement of $10,875 for trip expenses that had already been paid for with school funds, according to the indictment.

In June, while Trusty was on sick leave, prosecutors allege that she charged Western $3,560 for 19 nights in a New Jersey hotel. During that time, she also was paid $2,330 by the Teaching Trust while purporting to be unable to work, according to prosecutors.

On July 8, the city school board appointed Michelle White, a resident principal in the D.C. public schools, to lead Western.

State Del. Jill P. Carter, a Western alumna, said the school is known for producing women of "high caliber and high standards."

"I hope it's not true," Carter said of the allegations in the indictment. "If there's any validity to it, it's clearly unethical behavior. It's terrible to steal from the children to further one's own interests. It's conduct unbefitting a Western Dove."

Advertisement

Edie House-Foster, a spokeswoman for the city school system, declined to comment on the case.

Jimmy Gittings, president of the city's principals union, said he wasn't aware of the allegations before the indictment. "I'm very disappointed," he said. "I'm going to have to do more investigating into what happened."

Barry Freeman, whose two daughters attended Western, said he believes the case shows lax oversight from North Avenue. He also noted that Western's bathrooms have gone without toilet paper or soap, and there are some days when the school doesn't have heat.

"If people can go that long and rack up that kind of money on a debit card, where's the oversight?" he asked.

Freeman praised the school's new principal for being more engaged. "She's excellent. She's doing what needs to be done to get the school back into shape," he said.

In 2010, the school board selected Trusty, an assistant principal and Advanced Placement coordinator in the Anne Arundel County school system, to replace Western's principal, Eleanor Matthews, who retired. Trusty earned about $117,000 in 2011, according to the latest data available.

Trusty made the news several times in her three years at Western.

In 2013, Trusty wrote an opinion piece for The Baltimore Sun arguing that colleges and universities were not properly preparing first-year teachers for the rigors of the job. "From what we see in our classrooms, there is a growing disconnect between what their programs do and the actual skills and knowledge aspiring teachers need to flourish from Day One," Trusty and a co-author wrote.

In 2011, she examined Western's long-standing practice of only allowing students who have been accepted to four-year colleges to participate in the school's graduation ceremony.

Also that year, she said she investigated cases involving at least a dozen students whose college acceptances might have been compromised as a result of school staff failing to send pertinent documents to colleges.

"This is totally unacceptable to me," she wrote in a letter to the Western community.

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement