School business administrator Ann Garcia, co-founder of charter schools in Vineland and Millville, intentionally interfered with an investigation into her contracts with Vineland and other schools, a report by the state Department of Education finds.
The report states that Garcia held positions in five school districts in 2010-11, earning almost $300,000. That is not illegal, but an attempt to alter one of the contracts during the investigation could lead to future sanctions.
Garcia worked full time as the school business administrator in Winslow Township, earning $156,375 in 2009-10 and 2010-11, according to the state report, obtained by The Press of Atlantic City through the Open Public Records Act.
In those two years she was also paid to be the executive director of the Vineland Public Charter School, earning $50,000 in 2009-10 and $60,000 in 2010-11. She also served as the part-time business administrator for two other charter schools, the Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point, where she earned $54,080 in 2009-10 and $56,243 in 2011-12, and the Environment Community Opportunity Charter School in Camden, where she earned $22,000 in 2009-2010 and $18,640 in 2010-11. She also served as the appointed treasurer for the Voorhees school district, earning $6,780 in 2009-10 and $6,900 in 2010-11.
For all five jobs Garcia earned $298,158 in 2010-11, according to the state report. The Millville charter school opened last month and was not included in the report.
The investigation was triggered when the state DOE Office of Education Data noted that four of Garcia’s positions equaled almost three full-time jobs paying a total of almost $300,000. State Department of Education spokeswoman Allison Kobus said in an email that it is not illegal for someone to hold multiple jobs, but typically it would be one full-time and one part-time, or a shared position with two districts.
According to the report, the Investigations Unit obtained copies of her contracts and noted that both the Winslow Township contract and the Vineland charter school contract listed her employment as full-time positions. But the office later received a different set of contracts from the Vineland charter school stating that she was employed there part-time.
Investigators interviewed employees and Vineland charter school Board of Trustees President Gary Stanker and determined that Garcia was intended to be a part-time employee at the charter school. But the report called the replacement of the original full-time contracts with new part-time contracts a hastily developed and ill-conceived plan by Garcia to provide misinformation and thwart the state investigation. Garcia also declined to answer the investigator’s questions about the contracts.
The report noted that Garcia did not discuss the alleged contract errors with the charter school trustees until their June meeting, although the changes were made in March. Questions also were raised about the signature on a contract for another employee.
In its report, the state accepted that the Vineland charter school position was intended to be part-time. But it also noted that none of the part-time contracts listed a set number of days or hours that Garcia must work.
In light of the manner in which the contracts were replaced, the state turned he matter over to the state DOE Board of Examiners for possible action, and to the Division of Criminal Justice for review. Kobus said the Board of Examiners is expected to address the case at its Sept. 15 meeting and if they determine Garcia acted inappropriately, they could suspend or revoke her license.
In its recommendations, the state said that the schools that employ Garcia on a part-time basis should consider a contract review for her and any other part-time employees to determine if they should set a minimum number of hours worked.
Janice Strigh, principal of Charter Tech High School, confirmed that Garcia has been the school’s business administrator for about the past five years. She declined to discuss terms of her contract by phone, but said they have no complaints about her work.
“She is my right-hand person,” Strigh said.
The state also said the Vineland charter school should review benefits given to Garcia, which include 15 sick days, even though full-time employees get 10 sick days.
Garcia did not return calls to her Winslow Township district office or her home.
Contact Diane D'Amico: