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State auditor reports misuse of funds at Clayton charter school

Via Providence Creek Academy
The lower school at Providence Creek Academy Charter School in Clayton.

The state auditor's office is reporting more misuse of funds at a First State charter school.

State Auditor Tom Wagner says a former staffer at Providence Creek Academy Charter School in Clayton improperly spent almost $250,000 in school funds between 2011 and 2014.



The K-8 school remains open, but Wagner adds that Shanna Simmens, the former finance and HR manager accused of the wrongful spending, is no longer employed there.

Wagner says it's the latest in a series of allegations made against charter schools in recent months.

"The cases have been disturbingly somewhat similar in that individuals have in essence used their position and have made purchases using charter school money for items that are of personal nature and should never be charged to a charter school," Wagner says.

He says the smaller dollar amount than some cases in 2015 doesn't make the case any less serious.

Wagner also notes that Providence's own auditors didn't report the misuse of funds. It was only brought to the state's attention through a tip and meeting with Providence staff.


"I think sometimes there's a little confusion between the complete independence of a charter school, yet still the responsibilities they have for accounting and finance," Wagner says.

But he thinks giving the auditor's office oversight of charter schools' contracts with their accountants might help prevent problems like this. He says it would let schools retain their freedom, and let the state take a proactive rather than reactive approach to making sure charter schools are spending their money appropriately.

A bill to make that change is up for debate in the state legislature this week.

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