Band director racks up $100k deficit: Superintendent cancels hearing

By John Bachman - bio | email

RIVIERA BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Controversy continues to sound from Suncoast High School. A district audit shows band director Ernest Brown sent family members on European band trips and racked up more than $100,000 deficit on the trips.

His punishment is yet to be determined, but, school board members say, this case shows the need for better discipline standards for employees.

Wednesday night, at a special Palm Beach County School board meeting, officials dolled out punishments for staff members -- everything from suspensions to a termination.

But, we were interested in a punishment that wasn't handed down. "You know, if you read the audit report. It's very clear in my mind that it says there was theft," said school board member Frank Barbieri.

"I'm reading now about six inches of investigation, and I'm really glad it was taken off the agenda," said school board member Debra Robinson added.

Brown is in trouble after an audit showed he misused school funds to send family members on European band trips and racked up a six figure deficit.

His principal, at the time, Dr. Gloria Crutchfield went on the trip for free, too. She was also in the meeting, but was there to talk about other matters.

Superintendent Art Johnson originally called for a seven-day suspension for Brown, but canceled Wednesday's hearing.

Barbieri says, based on what he's read, a seven-day suspension doesn't go far enough. "I think that we need to be fair. I think that all employees need to be treated the same. And, I think, there's unequal justice here."

He says other employees have faced a wide range of punishments for misuse of funds.

Former Palm Beach Gardens Principal Jonathon Prince was demoted and reassigned to another school. Robinson says the district needs a set of standards to make sure all employees are treated the same when they break the rules. "I'm not here to say off with their head for everybody, but I would like for us to be more consistent."

And, as school board members continue to work on a more uniform way to discipline their employees, Mr. Brown continues to work at Suncoast High School as the band director until his issue comes before the school board for disciplinary matters again.

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