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After Alleged Theft, Silver Grove Schools Turns to Dayton for Financial Help

Following the arrest of its finance director on a theft, Silver Grove Independent Schools is turning to Dayton Independent Schools to handle its books moving forward.

The boards of education in both cities agreed to the partnership.

In March, former finance director Sherry Ellis was arrested for allegedly taking an unknown amount of money over $10,000 and depositing it into a personal account. That case is still ongoing.

"This has been quite an experience," said Silver Grove Superintendent Dennis Maines, who is in his second year. "I do believe that we face these problems for a reason. Even though this is a very trying time, the overall state of the district is strong, and we will come through this with more strength."

Silver Grove sees a benefit from Dayton with that district's two-member finance team at a cost that is about the same as the salary that was being paid to Ellis. Dayton's staff had previously stepped in to help out when Maines thought the partnership could be come more permanent.

"A lot of it can be done electronically," Maines explained. "We have to exchange paper, and give them the bills to pay, but they don't have to spend any days here. We are also hiring an administrative assistant that can assist with our daily operations. This person will also be in charge of our school activity accounts, which are separate from our district accounts."

"It just made sense," said Maines. "For the same amount of money we will now have a finance department three people deep, a stronger department for overseeing our funds."

Maines said that when Ellis was arrested, he took immediate and appropriate steps to inform the board of education and to cooperate with the police.

"It was a huge blow," Maines said. "It is an open investigation, so I can't comment on it. It has definitely been a learning experience. But we are recovering."

Dayton Superintendent Jay Brewer said that he and the board of education were happy to help Silver Grove.

"Our Superintendents are a close group. Dennis is our neighbor," said Brewer. "When this happened, I told him, if you need anything, let me know."

Brewer and Dayton Independent Schools know all too well about theft.

Upon Brewer's arrival in Dayton six years ago, it was discovered that his predecessor, Gary Rye, had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the district. Rye was sent to prison.

"Dennis called and said they had to have a little help in getting payroll out and paying bills and such, and we said we'll help you bridge the gap till you get someone else in there," said Brewer. "Then we explored the possibility of having our department take their department under our wing, and we decided to try it. We have stepped into the unknown and maybe it will be too much, we don't know. But you can't hit the ball over the fence if you don't swing."

The agreement is for a year, but Brewer and Maines both know that it is a gentleman's agreement wherein if either side gets in over its head, they can try something else.

"We will see if this benefits both districts," said Brewer. "You can't be afraid to take the step. Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

-Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Photo: Silver Grove High School (RCN file)