By Anne Forline
There were two special meetings at the Bellmawr Park School Library September 23, where PTO Vice President Dawn Reckard, sought to dispel the rumors and explain the matter so the Board can move forward.
In December, 2009 Virelli and Reckard had been serving alone on the Bellmawr Park PTO Board, and, as Reckard put it, “doing the work of seven.”
She conceded that the Board should have “folded at that point.”
In January 2010, Virelli had requested a three-month leave as she was about to undergo a “medical procedure” for an undisclosed condition. Reckard requested the books from Virelli at that time, but was unable to obtain them until February.
When Reckard gained possession of the books, she was confused about the lack of deposits and expressed concern that “things didn’t look right.”
She turned the PTO books over to Principal Elizabeth Calabria who, according to Reckard, put them in a school safe.
In August 2010, Sissy Gordon came onto the Board as treasurer, and retrieved the books from the school. Gordon and Reckard combed through them.
They found discrepancies and requested that Virelli provide receipts, which she was unable to do. At this point, the Bellmawr Police were notified.
When questioned by Bellmawr detectives, Virelli confessed to taking about $5,000 and agreed to make full restitution.
Parents at the meeting last week questioned how the children at the school suffered because of the theft.
Reckard said that PTO funds are earmarked to subsidize, or even pay for some events. For Fun-Day, students receive special T-shirts. Fourth grade tradition holds that student’s names are printed on the back.
Last year, this was unable to happen due to lack of PTO funds. At the annual trip to Story Book Land, the admission fee of $20 had to be paid entirely by the parents, as opposed to $8 in years past.
Also, the Board was also unable to cover admission fees for children who were unable to pay their own way.
Noticeably absent from this special meeting were Bellmawr Park Principal Elizabeth Calabria, as well as Bell Schools Superintendent Annette Castiglione, who was on vacation.
The parents in attendance at this meeting were well aware of this, and blasted their absences.
Kathleen Ryan was among the most vocal, and expressed “disgust that the principal and teachers didn’t come to this important meeting. This makes me skeptical that they are not backing us up on this. What else are they not doing? This is a huge trust issue.”
Stepfanie Gentry was equally angry: “We’re here for the children. Where are the teachers, principal and superintendent?”
Mary DiMattessa, who had previously served on the Bellmawr Board of Education, praised the PTO Board for their hard work in trying to get back on track, and suggested that this Board do what they need to get the support of the parents.
She suggested sending an informational letter out to all the parents to foster communication.
Virelli’s parents, Frank and Judy Matthews, were also in attendance.
At one point, Mrs. Matthews said, “There’s no proof.”
When she was leaving, she was asked if she would like to further comment. She shook her head negatively, and said, “No.”
At the next PTO meeting in October, the Board expects to have a full accounting of all fundraiser information to date, and confirmation that Virelli has begun making restitution.