The Plymouth Board of Education will launch a special investigation into the actions of Supt. Eleanor Cruz, who is suspected of stealing $15,000 from the town of Hebron while serving as superintendent there and they have asked her not to report to work until further notice.
The Plymouth school board moved to terminate Cruz during a Wednesday night meeting at Terryville High School, which was met with a standing ovation from parents and community members.
During the executive session that followed, the board appointed chairman Raymond Engle to lead a special investigation into Cruz's conduct.
Engle released a statement on Thursday morning.
"The Plymouth Board of Education is fully committed to addressing the matter of the Superintendents employment as expeditiously as possible. However, in order to protect the school district, it is important that the Board comply with all legal requirements concerning this situation, including the provisions of the Superintendent’s employment contract," Engle said in an e-mailed statement.
Michael Santogotta, the district’s business manager, will be leading the district until further notice.
Cruz, 63, of Essex, was charged with larceny last week. She's accused of charging personal expenses to two district credit cards while working in Hebron.
Officials said some of the stolen funds were used to analyze Board of Education data in Plymouth before she took the job there, according to state police and an audit conducted by the Hebron Board of Education.
The allegations came to light when the Hebron school board discovered “insufficiently documented transactions” and learned some purchases couldn’t be verified. The board then notified state police and a forensic auditor.
According to the audit, dated Feb. 20, 2013, Cruz used district credit cards at restaurants, jewelry shops, boutiques, pharmacies, food stores, farmer's markets, florists, online retailers, a toy store and a car wash, among others, during the 2012 calendar year.
She's accused of reimbursing herself nearly $4,000 in unauthorized travel and insurance expenses and using district cards to pay for FedEx home deliveries, according to the audit.
Officials from the Plymouth school system said Cruz was asked not to return to work after her arrest. Tonight the Plymouth Board of Education passed over a motion to terminate her immediately, and frustrated parents say it isn't enough.
"Make a decision; stop kicking the can down the road," said Plymouth parent George Franek, who has two children in the school system. "I don't want those accusations. Unfortunately, they've tarnished this town's name."
Kari Nizzardo, another parent, said it's too little, too late. She's already withdrawn her three kids form the school system.
"Shame on the Board of Ed for not taking care of it sooner," she said.
According to Engle, the Board of Education is doing everything in its power to conduct a fair investigation and handle the situation appropriately.
"We're going to do the best job we can to meet those obligations," Engle explained.
It's not clear how long the Board of Education's investigation is expected to take. In the meantime, Cruz is on paid leave, Engle said.
She's due in court Aug. 26.