A co-principal of the Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy was suspended from his job on Sept. 1, one day after a complaint filed with the Forest Park Police Department linked him to $2,600 in missing funds.
Richard Bryant, director of teaching and learning at the academy, is on paid administrative leave, according to Superintendent Stanley Fields. Fields declined to comment on the reasons for suspending Bryant and would not say whether the missing funds were a factor.
On Aug. 31, the Forest Park police received a complaint regarding the money from the school district’s business manager, Nikita Johnson. According to the police report, Angela Jackson, another employee in the main office, removed $2,603.65 in registration money from the school’s safe to give to Bryant. Jackson told police she handed the money to Bryant with the understanding it would be turned over to Proviso East High School, according to the report.
Johnson told police that Bryant “denies ever receiving the money,” according to the report.
On Sept. 7, Bryant confirmed that he has hired an attorney to represent him in the matter. He declined to say whether he intends to fight the suspension.
“On the advice of counsel I can’t comment at this time,” Bryant said.
Fields said he directed Johnson to file the complaint with the Forest Park police. Jackson, meanwhile, has not been sanctioned for any alleged wrongdoing in the matter, Fields said.
Fields publicly announced Bryant’s suspension at a meeting between district administrators and members of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association last week. Because the matter is a personnel issue, Fields told the audience of more than 50 that he could not disclose the reasons for his decision.
PTSA President Carl Williams said he has befriended Bryant since the school opened last year, and described him as a “man of honesty and integrity.” Williams said he could not say whether he supports Fields’ decision to suspend Bryant because he is not aware of the circumstances behind it.
However, Williams pointed to several setbacks the school has suffered since resuming classes for its second year, and said ultimately Bryant is accountable.
“When I look at effectiveness and results, he had great results,” Williams said. “But at the same time, we started off the school year with substitute teachers. That is not acceptable.”
In addition to relying on a number of substitute teachers to open the school year, Williams said the academy came up short in supplying students with textbooks and that a scheduling issue should have been addressed prior to classes resuming.
“I would say that yes, he was responsible for those responsibilities,” Williams said.
All of the blame for these situations likely does not rest with Bryant, Williams said, but as the lead administrator of the school it was his job to work through those problems.
Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan said Thursday that charges have not been filed with respect to the missing money, and that he understood the complaint to be more for the district’s own documentation purposes.
“I don’t really know if we’re going to pursue it criminally,” Ryan said.
Bryant’s suspension comes one year after the district opened the math and science academy in Forest Park. The academy’s other co-principal, Melvin Berry, will assume Bryant’s responsibilities, Fields said.
The Proviso Township School Board will meet on Sept. 25, at which time the board will discuss Bryant’s suspension, Fields said.