FBI investigating St. Joseph school district finances

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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The FBI is investigating the St. Joseph school district's finances after word spread that the superintendent had handed out unauthorized money to administrators.

The superintendent says he did nothing wrong, although he gave more than $200,000 in stipends to administrators without permission from the entire board.

He says it was completely within his jurisdiction, but one board member, Chris Danford, is asking that if he did nothing wrong, why has caught the attention of the FBI?

Chris Danford is passionate about what she does. She was a teacher and counselor in the St. Joseph district for 20 years.

“That's what I gave my life for. That's my calling,” said Danford.

Not long after she decided to join the school board.

“I wanted to be a part of bringing the district back to the district that I loved,” she said.

But soon rumors of her beloved district's finances started to spread. She heard 54 administrators had each gotten $5,000 in stipends. Danford said she immediately approached Superintendent Fred Czerwonka, and he confirmed it was true.

“I stopped breathing. I was like, ‘what? You can't do that,’” she recalled.

Danford says the district's policy clearly states Czerwonka needs approval from the entire board before handing out stipends.

Minutes from a febuary meeting shows the board did approve stipends, but Danford says she had no idea it was a new decision and thought it was already counted into this year's budget.

“We never even had the opportunity he just took it from us,” she said.

Czerwonka apologized in a recent meeting to members for not telling them he had decided to spend more than 200 thousand dollars on stipends, but Danford says it's too little too late.

“For those students who could use all the opportunities we could give to them, they're taken away,” said Danford.

The district recently had to cut $3 million from the budget. 10 teaching positions were eliminated.

All the while, Danford says the thousands that were handed to administrators could've been put into education, and student's futures.

“Who won? 54 administrators? Who lost? 11,000 students,” said Danford.

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  • Root

    Problem is the SJSD admin was keeping two sets of books. Not all board members were aware that these deals had been negotiated under the table. This is what happens when a former superintendent becomes the board president. Danford exposed these secret deals when she discovered the super and board president were padding their pockets and giving family members plum jobs.

  • MM

    This paper house is about to come crumbling down. Colgan is the only Sup I’ve ever heard of that wants to sit on a school board of a district he retired from. Power hungry or something to keep hidden? Maybe it’s the 70K+ job he orchestrated for his own son? Maybe it’s that they’ll find these stipends have been a part of the dirty backroom culture that has suffocated SJSD for decades. This will all come back to practices he put in place while in charge, In St Joe, they will have to replace every single one of the downtown admin or they will never pass a bond or levy again. Only question that remains, who will cost themselves their career and legacy with their actions? I’m guessing Dan Colgan and Doug Flowers will not be remembered the same when this is all said and done. Very sad.

  • John

    I find it interesting that 6 board members and the entire SJSD administrative staff is being bullied by one board member. I have heard there may be some history between the SJSD and the board member. Perhaps it is time the media check into her past employments, here and in Kansas City. It is my understanding that the FBI didn’t start the investigation because the “word spread” but because they got a call from “I wonder who”…. What a shame for this great community.

    To the 6, I say “don’t be bullied” and to the one I say “resign”.

  • Susan King & David King

    Two auditors committed suicide right, after findings lead to millions of dollars of wrongful use of money. Someone must think we are all crazy to believe this. Someone, or several people need to be punished for taking the money. People kill for allot less money than this. How do you teach kids right and wrong when you have examples of educators like this. Values are the problem in our Nation. Taking God out, will destroy America. Because Christian values are what our country was all about in the beginning. Violence and deceit is a result of a loss of values in America, Taking the guns is not the answer either. Values of violence are proportionally out of control. Educated idiots are making no progress to change America because they can’t see what went wrong.
    It would take the effort of Schools, Churches, and Parents to change the root of the problem. Teaching kids how to have respect, dignity again for each other, and our country. Try getting them back in Church to worship God and not the all mighty dollar. The sins are all a result, we reap what we sow. I hope this message is sent across America!