A former East High School secretary already on probation for stealing from another high school now faces felony charges after allegedly pocketing more than $100,000 in student fee money over three years in what officials say is the biggest single theft from the school district in history.
Anchorage School District officials had already fired her for stealing from Chugiak High School when they began to investigate her previous job at East High.
Police say Gayle White, 44, of Wasilla embezzled $100,499.85 from students and their parents from 2006 to 2009 while working as a student activities secretary at Anchorage's biggest high school. She failed to deposit funds in the correct accounts after collecting fee money from students, police said.
"She was moving funds around to different accounts to show money in the accounts to people that were looking," said Anchorage Police Department detective Anthony Pate. "She would keep the cash."
After working at East, White went on to work at Chugiak High, said ASD spokeswoman Heidi Embley.
She was fired in April 2011 after investigators discovered that she had stolen around $5,000 using similar methods, Pate said. She was charged with theft, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation in that case. At that time another Chugiak secretary, Brenda E. Burge, was charged with stealing nearly $75,000 from the school. Investigators said there was no evidence the two had schemed together. White was hired by East before the Chugiak embezzlement came to light.
Suspicious school district officials tracked White's employment history after the Chugiak charges. They hired retired Chugiak High principal Rick Volk to audit East's finances during White's tenure as activities secretary, according to Embley.
Volk said in an interview that he was "shocked" by the scale of the theft he uncovered by reviewing financial records and receipts.
According to charging documents, Volk told detectives his investigation found that White stole $50,520 during the 2006-07 school year, $40,465 during the 2007-08 school year and $9,513 during the first part of the 2008-09 school year.
Students never felt any impact from the missing funds because costs were paid for out of other district accounts, Embley said.
Secretaries and clerks who deal with cash are trusted with a lot of it: Someone in White's position could process $500,000 of fees in a school year, Volk told detectives.
In the wake of the embezzlements, the school district is changing cash-handling procedures and tightening accountability and oversight standards for accounting, said Embley.
"We found that a lot of safeguards were in place but people were getting lax," she said.
White started with the school district in 1998. She worked as a secretary at Bartlett High School and as a teacher's aide and substitute before becoming an activities clerk at East.
Embley said there's no evidence that White embezzled money before her job at East.
Volk said that White was a well-liked secretary known as a hard worker in her two years at Chugiak High School.
"That's part of the disappointment as well," he said. "You feel that you have a good working relationship. And it's all for naught."
White is now being charged with three felonies, including first-degree theft.
Volk said that detectives don't know what White spent the allegedly embezzled funds on.
According to business license records, she is now running an in-home day care in Wasilla. She did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
White is scheduled to appear in district court June 22.
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