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Dept. of Ed investigating Lee County superintendent

Dept. of Ed investigating Lee County superintendent

By Matt Grant. CREATED Mar 4, 2013

FORT MYERS - A state investigation into the Lee County School District may have superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke on the hot seat.

According to the letter, the Department of Education is looking into allegations Burke mismanaged funds.

"What's your response to the letter the DOE sent?," Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant asked board member Don Armstrong.

"I have no comment," said Armstrong. "Because I'm not allowed to discuss this. We've been asked not to discuss this until tomorrow at the board table." 

Armstrong, along with other board members, are holding a special meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss how to respond to the allegations which include:

  • $293,000 in grant funds going to top level administrators instead of the classroom
  • Suspending an investigation into an administrator
  • Misappropriating $1.6 million in grant money without board approval

"I don't think it was any reason for us to have board approval to move the funds," Burke told Fox 4 in February 2012.

Last year Burke responded to these accusations, which aren't new, when then board member Jane Kuckel went public with the concerns.

Burke insisted the board knew about the transfer of money and the district's number two told us a board vote wasn't required.

"Dr. Burke had several board meetings," said chief operating office Alberto Rodriguez last year, "talked in an open meeting about re-purposing dollars."

The state also wants to know why Burke suspended an investigation into his former colleague and top level administrator Deedara Hicks. A few months after she started she was given the highest salary raise allowed for her position.

"I can't comment on that either," said Armstrong.

Last year when we asked the district for details about the Hicks investigation they repeatedly denied our request for information.

"Do you think Dr. Burke's job is in jeopardy?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Never," responded Armstrong.

The school board has 30 days to respond to the state's letter. Tuesday's meeting starts at 2 p.m. and is open to the public.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com