Statements show thousands of dollars worth of unexplained purchases at Ammon charter school

An Ammon charter school’s credit card statements reveal a range of unexplained purchases totaling tens of thousands of dollars from last year.

From January to December 2020, Monticello Montessori Charter School put nearly $65,000 on two school-owned credit cards, according to statements Idaho EdNews obtained through a public records request. Yet only a handful of those purchases include descriptions of what the school bought.

Monticello Montessori in Ammon, courtesy of Facebook.

Idaho law requires school districts and charter schools to post their monthly expense reports online, along with descriptions of purchases that aren’t “self-describing.” Most of Monticello’s 2020 expense reports either lack purchase descriptions or are missing from the school’s website.

The lack of documentation makes it impossible for taxpayers to tell how the school spent thousands of public dollars on credit last year.

Monticello executive director Erica Kemery and board chair Ken Glodo haven’t addressed questions from EdNews about the purchases amid an investigation by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission into the school’s finances, and a range of other issues.

A closer look at the purchases

Monticello put $64,967.76 on two credit cards in 2020, statements from the school show.

Erica Kemery

Purchase amounts range from $250.58 in May on a card issued to Kemery to $11,212.79 in September on a card issued to Monticello business manager Nari Mendenhall.

Some purchases appear to be school-related, based on who the school paid. A September statement shows $279.90 paid to “Learning A-Z, LLC” and $531.50 paid to Gem State Paper and Supply.

Yet the school’s website includes no expense report for September to clarify what these and nearly $13,000 in other credit card purchases for the month were for. Expense reports are also missing for other months, including April, May and July — despite some $6,800 purchased on the cards for those same months.

Expense reports for January through March do show amounts purchased on the cards, yet lack descriptions for what the school bought. For example, Monticello’s February expense report shows at least $1,400 to Amazon.com on the credit card issued to Kemery, but includes no purchase descriptions.

The school’s October expense report shows some descriptions of credit card purchases for the month, including $292.40 for “typing club”. Other descriptions are more vague, including credit card purchases of $2,119.83 and $2,027.03 described as “misc” and a $187.32 purchase described as “COVID”.

Some purchases were made at stores not known for education-related merchandise:

  • A TJ Maxx purchase of $44.49 in March.
  • Two Netflix purchases of $17.99 apiece in March and April.
  • Over $214 in January and February to christianbooks.com.
  • Regular purchases throughout the year from several area grocery stores.

Credit card statements provided to EdNews also reveal a series of fees for late payments, including $137.75 in 2020 and $116 in 2019.

Glodo did not respond to questions from Thursday about whether he and other board members were aware of the charges, had ever reviewed them and who oversees them.

Kemery on Sunday requested more time to address questions about purchases made on the cards. She did not respond to more inquires from EdNews Monday.

State commission has been investigating the school

The Idaho Public Charter Commission has been investigating a range of issues at the school since March, including over $11,500 in unexplained payments and purchases.

The commission has temporarily absolved the school of some initial concerns, but requested more information surrounding finances in a letter to local leaders on April 30.

Commission director Jenn Thompson told EdNews Thursday that she and her staff were still waiting on some financial documents from the school.

“The investigation is ongoing as we have not received all the documentation we requested in an April 30 letter,” Thompson told EdNews Thursday.

Click here to read Thompson’s latest letter to the school.

Monticello is located in Ammon and serves some 200 students and employs 11 certified staffers.

Idaho EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story. 

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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