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Former charter school director gets probation for lying about student enrollment

A charter school in Muskegon County will have to repay the state close to $30,000 that, technically, the school shouldn’t have gotten in the first place.

The more students a school has the more money it receives from the state.

Barbara Stellard, who directed Waypoint Academy from 2002 to 2010, was charged in October with multiple criminal charges for reporting more students than actually attended the charter school.

Michigan Attorney General’s office spokeswoman Joy Yearout says another employee at Waypoint told tipped the state off to the scam.

“What we were able to discover is that Stellard was submitting for funding for students who moved out of the district and she just didn’t report that they had actually moved,” Yearout said.

Two felony charges and seven high court misdemeanors (misdemeanors that carry up to two years in jail) were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea to misconduct in office; a felony charge.

Stellard’s attorney, Matthew Kacel, has not responded to requests to comment for this story. The Muskegon Chronicle/MLive.com reportsshe apologized in Muskegon County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

“I take absolute full responsibility for the decisions, choices and actions that I took and deeply apologize to the state of Michigan and this court for the time, energy and resources that this case has consumed,” Stellard said in court before being sentenced. “I believe this came from a place where she was trying to help her staff” and retain jobs at the school, Kacel, her attorney, said.

On Tuesday a judge sentenced Stellard to a year probation. But that sentence depends on the school paying the state back.

“This is only one of a handful of cases we’ve seen in recent years of fraudulent data being submitted to the state. So we don’t believe it’s something that’s very common,” Yearout said.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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