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Investigative audit accuses charter school superintendent of misspending more than $250,000

The now defunct chart school Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla
The now defunct chart school Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla

An investigative audit released Tuesday afternoon reveals that the leader of defunct charter school Seeworth Academy misspent a quarter of a million dollars.

State auditor Cindy Byrd’s office says former Seeworth superintendent Janet Grigg gave herself and upper level staff more than $210,000 in unapproved bonuses. She also spent more than $40,000 on personal expenses. 

“The result is an incredible disservice to our taxpayers and the students,” Byrd said in a written statement. “School choice is important for students in Oklahoma and should be protected.  However, the criminality of this cannot be ignored.”

Seeworth’s board of education voluntarily gave up its charter and shuttered the school in 2019. That was largely due to financial and oversight concerns.

The online news outlet Nondoc reported that District Attorney David Prater has opened a criminal investigation into the matter

In the wake of the audit report, state schools superintendent and Democratic candidate for governor Joy Hofmeister called on state lawmakers to strengthen Oklahoma’s oversight of charter schools. 

“This is yet another example where parents, students and Oklahoma taxpayers are failed by a less-than-fully-engaged school board and loose state laws regarding charter schools,” she said in the written statement. “A lack of structure and accountability in state law has allowed for this apparent fraud. Charter school boards aren’t even currently required to undergo training for their fiduciary roles. We continue to call for the legislature to strengthen oversight of charters."

Lawmakers have taken a friendly stance toward limited regulation of charter schools for decades. But this is the second scathing audit of a charter in the last year, after Byrd’s office found Epic Charter Schools misspent millions.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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