Educator sentenced in theft of $60,000

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The former principal of a regional Catholic school pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing about $60,000 in school funds -- including bake sale and other fund-raising proceeds -- and spending it on shopping over the course of a decade, her lawyer said.

Janice C. McIntosh, 53, of Annapolis tearfully asked forgiveness from the school community as she told Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck that she did not intend to cause "anger, disappointment and sadness" at Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School in Glen Burnie.

In pleading guilty to felony theft, McIntosh repaid $45,000 yesterday and agreed to repay $15,000 more over the next three years while on probation. She also will reimburse the Archdiocese of Baltimore the $8,095 it spent on an internal audit stemming from the embezzlement, which started in 1993 and continued until she resigned in July 2003.

Manck sentenced McIntosh to one year in jail, suspending eight months and placing her on four months of house arrest. She can leave home for her job teaching religion at St. Clement Mary Hofbauer School in Rosedale and for a second job she might seek to pay for her daughter's wedding.

McIntosh's lawyer, George S. Lantzas, said the woman he described as a one-time Principal of the Year in the archdiocese has received support from the archdiocese and from Slade parents and has won praise from St. Clement parents.

He said McIntosh suffers from depression and used the money to shop for items for herself and others to "feel better about herself. ... It spiraled out of control."

As he asked Manck not to jail his client, Lantzas said McIntosh has been humiliated and seen her salary drop from $90,000 to one-third of that now that she is back in a classroom. Her pension also will suffer.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Dunty, who sought a jail term, said parents pay private school tuition so that their children can learn values as part of a top-notch education. Instead, McIntosh stole money that was supposed to benefit students, he said.

Dunty said the archdiocese spoke of compassion in a letter to families but did not speak of punishment.

"There are just as many parents that are outraged that she would be rehired by the archdiocese to teach religion," Dunty said.

Ronald J. Valenti, the archdiocese's superintendent of Catholic schools, said in an interview that officials would meet to consider McIntosh's position.

"It was a decision then that, because of who we are and what we are as a church, that she would be permitted to teach if she sought a position in the diocese," the superintendent said. Valenti said McIntosh did not harm children and cooperated with the archdiocese's investigation.

Paula J. Darrah, mother of a second-grader at Slade, questioned the decision by the archdiocese to give McIntosh a job as a teacher in a values-laden curriculum.

"It's outrageous that the archdiocese has placed her in a classroom at another school," Darrah said. "I find it offensive for the school system to be employing someone as a religion teacher while we continue to fund-raise for our school."

The theft has led to tumultuous times for Slade, which has more than 900 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and relies on its fund raising to support a budget that tops $3 million and to subsidize tuition.

The school had an interim principal last year and a replacement this year as parents coped with the betrayal of trust by the woman who had been a respected principal for 15 years.

"This school was turned upside down," said Charlie Sachs, president of Slade's Home School Association, who watched the court hearing.

The incident also cost the school parent involvement. Family members are required to dedicate 20 hours throughout the year to school activities or pay $500 to $650 beyond the tuition of $3,522 for Catholic students and $3,822 for non-Catholics.

"All of our fund-raisers have suffered," Sachs said.

After yesterday's court proceeding, Dunty said that of the nearly $71,000 in school funds that the prosecutors' investigation could not account for between 1993 and 2003, it traced about $60,000 to her.

In April 1993, according to the prosecutor's statement to the judge, McIntosh opened what was labeled as a school "snack account" at the Bank of Glen Burnie in the school's name, right after she said a checkbook had been stolen.

McIntosh was the only signer for the account. Included in the $49,365 that went into it over a decade was more than $7,731 in bake sale cash, more than $14,270 in checks from parents for extra textbooks and more than $2,000 in checks from the faculty for a picnic.

The school's tuition officer, the only other school employee who knew of the account, made deposits on McIntosh's order. Nobody aside from McIntosh was to open statements from that account, but the school's financial officer opened one and found canceled checks made out to cash.

Questioned by school employees in 2003, McIntosh first said the account paid for school-related dinners and other purchases, but she had no receipts or examples.

"At a subsequent meeting, she produced clothing receipts and said that she was a compulsive shopper and that was why she took the money," Dunty said.

Someone connected with the school contacted prosecutors and the archdiocese.

Dunty said other missing money traced to McIntosh included almost $12,700 in summer school tuition, $1,468 in cell phone charges -- not including the cell phone she gave to her college-student daughter to use at Slade's expense -- and gifts for teachers.

Sun staff writer Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

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