AHWATUKEE, AZ — A police investigation is underway to determine how tens of thousands of dollars went missing from a Valley parent-teacher organization (PTO).
The loss of money is already having an impact on the students and teachers at Kyrene Monte Vista Elementary School in Ahwatukee.
"All the teachers in the school get $350-$500 grants to set up their classrooms, and we're not able to do that because we don't have the funds," said Robin Barrett, Co-President of the Kyrene Monte-Vista PTO Board.
Robin Barrett and the new parent-teacher board just took over in May. They immediately spotted a problem, though.
"We should start the school year with about $12,000 or $15,000," said Barrett. "Currently we have $11,000 in unpaid bills."
The board only has $2,000 in the bank as well.
Phoenix police confirmed to ABC15 that they are investigating a complaint that more $20,000 may have been stolen.
"That's a lot of money, and it goes really far with our kids," said Sarah, a parent with a second-grader at Kyrene Monte Vista.
The news blindsided parents and board members alike, some of whom donate hundreds each year.
"We were just really shocked," said Barrett. "We inherited this problem."
The old board, which had little to no oversight, had just four parents on it.
"Are you guys looking at this prior board like everyone is a suspect?" asked ABC15's Zach Crenshaw.
"I'm not making any judgments right now, I am totally leaving that up to the police," replied Barrett.
In the meantime, it is the students and teachers who are being punished.
"That's really disheartening. The teachers do so much for our kids, and they deserve every penny," said Sarah.
The new board is trying to replenish the missing cash with new donations as they wait on investigators to identify the culprit.
"I hope somebody is held responsible. I don't know if anybody will be, but I hope that they figure out what happened," said Sarah.
The new board says they are turning over bank statements and other financial documents to detectives.
Phoenix police tell ABC15 this crime is not isolated, and they have taken many reports in the past regarding missing PTO money.