$250,000 in San Diego student money misspent by staff, says audit

Staff breakfasts, popcorn machine among items

SAN DIEGO - A quarter million dollars meant for Mira Mesa High School students was "misspent" by school administrators on things such as staff breakfasts, personal expenses for school coaching staff, a popcorn machine, sound system, office furniture and more, according to an audit by the San Diego Unified School District.

The money originated from a fund for the "Associated Student Body" and was raised in part by students and also tax dollars mandated by the state.

The district audit shows 22 examples of money meant for students that was instead spent by staff.

"Some people may view this as hundreds of thousands of dollars in misspent money," said SDUSD spokesman Jack Brandais.

The audit shows $20,785 raised by graduation tickets was misappropriated, and it shows Mira Mesa HS Principal Scott Guisti spent $41,666 from the student fund for office furniture.

Brandais said the district is not placing blame on any person for the misspending because the district did not properly train staff on how to use money from certain accounts, and, in fact, approved the spending.

The audit also shows the basketball and cross country coach using $3,058.37 for "personal gain."

"It was going to coaches' clinics, and student funds can't be used for that," Brandais said.

The audit revealed money spent on gift cards for staff.

It also shows the principal spent more than $37,000 on a sound system, ice machine, printer, portable stage and popcorn machine.

"We made errors," Guisti wrote in response to the audit. "I disagree with several of the auditor's findings."

Internal emails between Guisti and school district staff show the district itself authorized the expenditures.

"According to this report, we have a lot of work to do to do better," Brandais said.

Brandais said since the audit, SDUSD principals have been through new training detailing how to handle money meant for student causes.

This is not the first time San Diego student funds have been spent misspent. In July 2013, another district audit revealed $25,000 wrongly taken from a student fund at La Jolla High School.

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