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  • WTVR CBS 6

    Teacher’s union wants accountability over 'possible misuse of public money'

    By Melissa Hipolit,

    27 days ago
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    PETERSBURG, Va. -- The teacher’s union that represents teachers and school support staff in Petersburg said they look forward to additional reporting on their school board’s “fiscal accountability” in the wake of a CBS 6 investigation into the former Petersburg superintendent’s travel expenses.

    Through public records requests we found Dr. Tamara Sterling spent more than $22,000 on trips to conferences during her 15 months on the job, which was paid for with taxpayer money by the Petersburg City School System.

    That amount was more than double what the Henrico superintendent spent, 14 times what Hopewell’s superintendent spent and 43 times what Chesterfield’s superintendent spent during the same time frame.

    At three of the conferences, Sterling booked more than one room for herself.

    At two of the conferences, even if she flew in the day before the conference and flew out the day after, she stayed three additional nights on the public’s dime.

    WATCH: Extra hotel rooms, rental cars, and a $22,000 travel bill. What's going on with school leader spending?

    Extra hotel rooms, rental cars, and a $22,000 travel bill. What's going on with school leader spending?

    Travel authorization forms show School Board Chair Kenneth Pritchett approved Sterling’s travel.

    We tried to reach out to Pritchett by phone and email to ask him about Sterling’s trips prior to publishing our story on Tuesday, but he never responded.

    Then on Wednesday we emailed a spokesperson for Petersburg City Schools to request an interview with Pritchett or a response to the story. But we never heard back.

    CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit showed her findings to State Senator Lashrecse Aird (D-13th), who represents Petersburg in the General Assembly.

    “There just really is no rationale that can be used to explain the excess that’s appearing in the records that you found,” Sen. Aird said.

    Here is the full statement the Petersburg Education Association sent CBS 6.

    “As we said earlier, when the issue of our former superintendent’s travel expenditures first came to light, such events have no impact on Petersburg educators’ determination to teach and care for the young people of our city. However, accountability is always a necessary feature of a strong school system, and we believe that all individuals involved in the possible misuse of public money, if such allegations are shown to be true, should be held accountable, whether it be the person or persons who spent the funds, or the person or persons who approved such spending.”

    CBS 6 reached out to Sterling by phone and email prior to our initial story airing, but never heard back.

    But, since Tuesday’s broadcast, she sent Hipolit an email saying that she will be responding to our report. We will update this story with her response.

    Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip .

    Watch Melissa Hipolit's reporting on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com. Have something for Melissa to investigate? Email her.

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    Every day CBS 6 is Giving You A Voice. If you have a tip, email our team at NewsTips@wtvr.com or click here to submit a tip. You can also leave a message by calling 804-254-3672. Be sure to leave your name, phone number and detailed description of your story idea.

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