Auditors Examine Possible Student Fund Shortage : Chatsworth: A district finance team combs Lawrence Junior High's books to learn if money controlled by an absent campus administrator has disappeared.


Los Angeles school district officials have begun an audit at a Chatsworth junior high school to determine whether thousands of dollars have disappeared from student body funds supervised by a campus administrator who has failed to report to work for weeks.

A finance team from the Los Angeles Unified School District's budget office has been stationed at Lawrence Junior High School for the past two weeks, scrutinizing campus ledgers to find out if revenue generated by the student store and various campus fund-raisers is indeed missing, according to school officials.

Exact figures are not available, but district Budget Director Henry Jones said Tuesday the total losses, if confirmed, "could be substantial."

Although all secondary schools undergo audits every three or four years, Jones said, the financial review at Lawrence began after a district finance manager who oversees Lawrence made a routine visit to campus and alerted officials to possible accounting irregularities that appeared "serious enough to warrant an audit."

In addition, Lawrence's student body finance manager, Placido Cantollas, had not shown up for work since the beginning of February--at first because of district-imposed furlough days and an illness, but finally without explanation, Principal Tony Ventresca said.

Ventresca said Cantollas' failure to appear, and concern over "lateness of payments of some of the bills," helped trigger the audit.

The district team is conducting a comprehensive examination of all of Lawrence's books, which include funds set aside for student activities, money from the school cafeteria and a small pot of cash administrators can use at their discretion to purchase outside supplies or services.

As finance manager, Cantollas--who Ventresca said has worked at Lawrence for about three years--stewards those accounts.

According to Ventresca, the search for missing funds is centering primarily on the student body account, composed of money made through such fund-raisers as candy sales and through the campus store, which sells notebooks, pens and other school supplies. The receipts go toward sponsoring activities and clubs.

It was not known when the audit would be completed. District officials are also trying to locate Cantollas so he "can assist in providing us information," spokeswoman Diana Munatones said.

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