Principal reimburses system for shower

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The principal at C. Milton Wright High School used $6,600 in school funds to pay for the installation of an unauthorized shower in his office, according to Harford County schools officials.

Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas said the principal, Thomas W. Ackerman, reimbursed the school system for the money after an audit picked up the unauthorized expenditure.

"We audit books every year," she said. "We caught it. That's why we audit books every year."

Haas said the matter is still being investigated.

"Mr. Ackerman has reimbursed the schools for the money," she said. "So that part was righted. But that doesn't mean that this isn't still a personnel issue."

Asked if there would be any disciplinary action, Haas responded: "Most certainly. Anytime there is a personnel issue, that can happen."

Ackerman said the work was done while he was away on vacation this summer. He said two school checks were used to pay for the shower. He did not answer when asked why his personal checks were not used.

"It was never my intention not to pay for the shower," he said. "Never."

"The blame for this whole mess is mine," he said.

He said the shower was added in an empty space next to a restroom.

Ackerman said the shower was something that he and the other school administrators could use on the approximately 100 nights a year that they have to work late to supervise activities at the school.

He said there were other showers in the school, but they were on the opposite side of the entrance and downstairs.

Haas said she is also concerned that the work was done without a proper building permit.

"That's a violation of our procedure, and we are concerned about that," she said.

According to Ackerman, "an individual contractor" installed the shower. He declined to identify the contractor, but said it "was a friend of a friend."

DeLane Lewis, a lawyer who lives in Fallston with two children in the Harford County school system, said $6,600 could go a long way toward paying for paper and other supplies.

She said Ackerman violated his trust and "his action did not set a good example for students in the school or the staff at the school."

"It was an abuse of his power," said Lewis, who is leader in a citizen group to improve county schools. "That's wrong."

School board member Robert B. Thomas Jr. said he has a lot of respect for Ackerman, but he was disturbed about the incident. "In this board member's opinion, no administrator should request a personal shower. It doesn't show me good judgment on the part of somebody at C. Milton Wright," he said.

Thomas said he was "troubled by the event and will be seeking full disclosure through the superintendent's investigation."

The checks to pay for the shower were signed by one of the secretaries at C. Milton Wright. The procedure requires that each check also be signed by one of the assistant principals at the school.

Thomas said the school system has recently hired an auditor, and he will be requesting that the auditor review all public schools in the county and to make recommendations on stricter control of school funds.

"I don't think any school administrator should have indiscriminate access to school-based funds," he said.

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