Middle School Principal Bought Jewelry with School Credit Card | NBC Bay Area

Middle School Principal Bought Jewelry with School Credit Card



    A middle school principal in San Jose used her district credit card to spend thousands on jewelry and accessories. She eventually reimbursed the district, but teachers and staff have raised concerns for years about what they call principal Kristina Clecak’s questionable spending. NBC Bay Area Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski reports in a story that first aired May 15, 2015. (Published Friday, May 15, 2015)

    Updated 5/26 with written response from Kristina Clecak.

    Sources from Oak Grove School District in San Jose want the superintendent to do something about a middle school principal with what they say are questionable spending habits.

    The sources came to the NBC Bay Area Investigative after they say the Superintendent’s office didn’t do enough to address their concerns about Bernal Intermediate School Principal Kristina Clecak.

    “Someone has to listen. Someone has to look at this,” said a district employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “Our job is to protect the public’s money to educate these children.”

    In October, the Investigative Unit requested Clecak’s expense reports based on an insider’s tip.

    “That scared them,” the source said. “That was an ‘oh dear, someone is finding out about this’ moment for them.”

    The records revealed 17 charges in 2012 to a web-based jewelry company, Stella and Dot totaling more than $2600. According to its website, Stella and Dot is “a social selling company that creates flexible entrepreneurial opportunities” in addition to a retail portal.

    Our insider sources say they’re frustrated with Clecak’s attempt to use district dollars in her side business as an independent stylist for Stella and Dot. Records show the district flagged the charges as “not allowable” when she submitted her expense reports.

    The district forced Clecak to reimburse the charges, but did not remove her credit card privileges until more than two years later. “It’s happened within the last four months,” the source said. “I truly believe it happened because of your investigation.”

    Since our original story aired, Clecak sent NBC Bay Area an email which said in part, “Yes, there was an error to a credit card from 2012. It was an error and was recognized and rectified immediately. Again after viewing that the card number was accidentally ‘saved’ charges were added as an error.” She also said “at the time $10 was allowed for gifts for staff and titled a gift allowance.”

    Clecak also provided NBC Bay area with a photo of a letter from the Oak Grove School District, which acknowledged a total of $190 allowable for 19 staff gifts and appears to have been sent within a few months after the charges were made. The letter details Clecak owing the district more than $1300, and she was given until June of 2013 to pay it back.

    Sources inside the district say they’ve questioned Clecak’s expenses for years since she was a principal at an elementary school in the district. “Six years of this type of stuff, being brought to the administration and nothing being done. It continues year after year,” the source said.

    In 2014, The union created a survey for Bernal teachers to evaluate Principal Clecak. Nearly two-thirds of the teachers answered 60 questions. Some of the comments included, “…she’s the absolute antithesis of a leader,” and “My principal is unethical and picks on or bullies teachers.” According to the Survey, there were 309 unsatisfactory responses. “That’s huge. That’s an alarming number,” said Josie Carillo-Johnson, the former teachers union president, who conducted the survey. “Our teachers are held accountable and there was absolutely no accountability for her behavior.”

    In her email, Clecak dismissed the union’s surveys: “My Evaluations, serving and leading at award winning schools under my leadership, are from the Superintendent and I would gladly showcase all they entail. They are meaningful, rigorous and stellar. We have Closed Achievement Gaps, created strong teacher leadership and enhanced learning environments for students and staff to thrive.”

    “They call her the ghost, the ghost principal,” said Lynne Martinez, the President of the Oak Grove Educators Association Union. “She’s not seen on campus. She’s not seen in the classrooms.”

    The teacher’s union just completed another survey on Principal Clecak’s performance. This time, less than half of the teachers completed the survey. The numbers do show an improvement, but a number of teachers still raised similar concerns about their principal.

    The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit requested an interview with Superintendent Jose Manzo to discuss the expense reports and the teacher’s survey. Citing private personnel matters, the district declined to answer the questions raised by staff, teachers, and the union, but did release a statement saying in part, “The credit cards in isolated situations were not being used consistent with (district) policy and it took appropriate action.”