Former District Secretary Sentenced
Former Shorewood School District secretary Donna Sternke was sentenced today for embezzling more than $300,000 in federal special education money from the Shorewood School District between 1998 and 2011. Ms. Sternke entered a guilty plea during at her court hearing, and was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day in federal prison followed by two years of supervised probation. (Ms. Sternke will self-report on May 1 to begin serving her sentence.)
The judge ordered financial Restitution for the full amount that was embezzled, to be paid back to the District over an undetermined amount of time.
Prior to Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Shorewood Superintendent Dr. Marty Lexmond presented the court with a letter outlining all of the ways the embezzlement has negatively impacted the District.
The District became aware of the embezzlement during the summer of 2011 when Shorewood’s former Special Education Director Anthony Strancke found gift cards from the Kalahari Resort, which Ms. Sternke, his secretary at the time, had purchased using District money, but was planning to redeem for personal use.
After the District became aware of the situation, Ms. Sternke agreed to give restitution for the gift cards and resigned, denying any further indiscretions. However, the District tracked Ms. Sternke’s purchases and found fraudulent purchases dating back to 1998.
Once the District’s administration became aware of the extent of the situation, the case was turned over to the Shorewood Police Department and federal officials.
The District worked with three independent auditing companies between 1998 and 2011. During this time, each company performed an annual audit of the District’s financial accounts, including the funds Ms. Sternke embezzled from, but did not find anything suspicious, as Ms. Sternke created false invoices and receipts that were very convincing.
Since Shorewood discovered the embezzlement, the District has taken steps to ensure that this type of situation does not occur in the future.
For example, when filling out purchase orders, teachers are now required to fill out additional documentation and a second step was added to the purchasing approval process for the Special Education Director. Additionally, the Business Office has added a procedure for staff attending professional conferences: all approvals must go through the Administration, who are now instructed to verify that the employee has an approved absence request on file for the dates of the conference, along with verification of the authenticity of the conference.
“The entire Shorewood community can be proud of the work our students, staff and teachers do every day,” Lexmond said. “I am confident in our ability to provide quality programs for our entire community well into the future.”
Wednesday April, 2, 2014 at 11:00PM
Choose groups to clone to: