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MPS principal accused of stealing tuition money from school in Florida

MPS principal accused of stealing tuition money from school in Florida

By Rob Koebel. CREATED Oct 13, 2011 - UPDATED: Oct 13, 2011

MILWAUKEE- She's a school principal on the run after Florida parents claim her school stole their tuition money. Now she works for the Milwaukee Public School system once again as a principal.

The I-team takes a closer look at MPS's new hire and asks how the district could hire her after her last school went bankrupt.

Wendy Alexander came all the way from near Tampa, Florida and now she's in charge of a more than six-million dollar budget at Fairview Charter school right here in Milwaukee.

Rob Koebel: "You are a long way from Tampa, Florida where a bunch of people are wondering about their money & tuition."
Wendy Alexander:  You guys are unbelievable."

Alexander heads home for her new job. She is principal of Fairview Charter School. She refused to talk about her last job running a school outside of Tampa, Florida.

Rob Koebel:  "Well you know what - there are a lot of people who gave you tuition. What happened to the school? Will you be giving their money back? 
Wendy Alexander: I have no comment. I hope so."

Alexander is tight lipped about her past. But more than a thousand miles away in Lutz, Florida the former private school she owned and managed is shut down after 7 years of operation - foreclosed by the bank - four weeks after opening this school year.

Her school owes nearly 3 million bucks.

Alba Benitez/Angry Parent
Angry Parent: "We paid in full."
Reporter: "How much did you pay? "
Angry Parent: "Around 16,000."

Michael Hanke/Angry Parent
Angry Parent: "I'm out about 11 hundred and 65 dollars."
Reporter: "Do you think you will get your money back?" 
Angry Parent: Absolutely not."

Alexander's school has filed for bankruptcy in Florida. Investigator reporter Mark Douglas with our NBC affiliate in Tampa teams up to help us work the case.

Alba Benitez/Angry Parent
"You didn't know the school was in bankruptcy? Yeah. And you didn't know the building was in foreclosure? No. Would you have given all that money if you had know that? No of course no!!"

Rob Koebel: "Where did that money go? This is 10's of thousands of dollars…."
Wendy Alexander: "You guys are unbelievable.  If you only knew everything I did over 12 years for that community - things did not turn out well."

Things apparently were going so bad in Florida she applied for a job here as principal in Milwaukee. She got the job and it was announced to parents in a June 13th news letter.

Rob Koebel:  How did you get the job here?
Wendy Alexander:  The job here was taken….
Rob  Koebel:  Did you disclose this….      
Wendy Alexander:  "of course I did."
Rob Koebel:  But you were also taking tuition money while you knew that right? You knew you were coming up here. Is that correct?
Wendy Alexander: I have no comment.

Wendy's school in Floriday cashed a check from a parent in July worth more than 14-thousand dollars a month after she accepted the job here in Milwaukee.

And when I asked MPS for an on camera interview to ask about the hiring process. I was sent this email,

"The District was made aware in September of Ms. Alexander's personal and business financial issues in Florida… "

But remember - MPS announced she was hired way back in June! Apparently they had no clue until months later when the district claims a former Florida employee told them.

"We asked for an explanation from Ms. Alexander, sought out independent information. We continue to monitor the matter for new information."

Michael Hanke/Angry Father
"She definitely is a good talker - maybe a used car salesman type personality so I can understand how she convinced people she would look you directly in the eye".

When I did a quick search using Google - I typed in her name -- Wendy Alexander and it filled in Tampa and quickly popped up a link about the issues at her old school - the Hand in Hand Academy.  

Amy Briggs/Former office worker
"She left a lot of people out of a lot of money and placements for their kids they had to scramble and find a new place for their kids to go. She left a lot of people in a bad position".

Back in Milwaukee - the sign in front of her new school reads - good choices continue, a slogan that isn't sitting well with those parents and staff in Florida.

Cindy Dubs/Angry Mom
"She kind of left everybody behind and started a new life - said she was going there to make money to send back to her school".

The district hasn't answered us about how and why she was hired. Remember not only is she leading a school - she is in charge of a more than 6-million dollar budget. I want to know what you think. Should the district have done a better job looking into her past history? Email me at rkoebel@todaystmj4.com