On March 18, the Young Middle School Local School Council claimed that current APS Board of Education candidate Shawnna Hayes-Tavares never reimbursed Young Middle School parents a total of $970 the parents had given her for uniforms during a summer camp.
Hayes-Tavares, previously banned from the Young Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association by the Georgia PTA for alleged financial misconduct which occurred during her presidency, is in the midst of a campaign to replace Yolanda Johnson as the District 6 representative. Johnson is not seeking reelection.
Johnson has defended Hayes-Tavares and believes she is the most accomplished candidate to replace her on the board.
“She has 15 to 20 years of experience doing the work the board is supposed to do as a parent and an advocate,” Johnson said. “She is by far the best candidate.”
Johnson said the claims Young Middle School LSC have brought against Hayes-Tavares are “unfounded allegations.”
MISSING MAJORETTE MONEY
Hayes-Tavares held a majorette camp at Young Middle School from July 23 to July 27. On the camp’s flyer, obtained through a member of the Young Middle School LSC, parents were instructed to make out a $150 check to Shawnna Hayes-Tavares for uniforms.
According to the March 18 Young Middle School LSC minutes, Hayes-Tavares collected $970 in full or partial uniform payments from the parents. Hayes-Tavares, however, claims that only four of the 15 girls at the camp paid for uniforms, which would equal $600 if those girls paid in full.
After the majorette team was annexed by the After School All-Stars—a program with grant-provided funding for after-school activities—uniforms were no longer needed and Hayes-Tavares said she did not purchase them. Parents asked for a refund, according to the minutes from the meeting.
Although Kelvin Griffin, the Young Middle School principal, asked Hayes-Tavares to return the $970, she had yet to refund the parents by the meeting on March 18, according to the LSC minutes.
Griffin and Young Middle School decided to make the parents financially whole and reimbursed them.
In an interview with The Southerner, Hayes-Tavares said she doesn’t know why Young Middle School is under the impression the parents were not refunded.
“The girls who didn’t receive uniforms received their money back,” she said. “They received refunds.”
Hayes-Tavares did not respond to an email asking her to clarify who refunded the parents.
A parent whose children went to Hayes-Tavares’ camp and spoke on the condition of anonymity said she paid Hayes-Tavares a total of $300 for uniforms her children never received. When asked if Hayes-Tavares reimbursed her, she said flatly, “No, she didn’t.” The parent said Griffin was the one who refunded her $300.
The name Shawnna Hayes-Tavares was not mentioned on any documents obtained through an Open Records request asking for documents showing repayment to parents.
At the meeting, members of the LSC resolved to contact William Scott, APS Director of the Office of Internal Compliance, to start legal action against Hayes-Tavares, according to the minutes. Scott declined comment.
This is not the first allegation of financial misconduct made against Hayes-Tavares. When she was president of the Young Middle School PTSA, the Georgia PTA began to investigate the association’s finances. According to the LSC minutes, however, the fact that “all the [Young Middle School] PTA books/records were stolen” complicated the audit.
On Aug. 31, 2007, Leslie Cushman, a Georgia PTA official, emailed Griffin.
“It is the opinion of President Cushman and District Director Perrino that no previous officer or current officer of Jean Childs Young Middle School PTSA should hold a position in any PTA/PTSA until the matter has been completely satisfied,” Perrino wrote to Griffin.
A Young Middle School LSC member who requested anonymity told The Southerner that at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Hayes-Tavares claimed there was a Georgia PTA letter which cleared her to serve again.
Shortly after this claim, Hayes-Tavares collected gift certificates to be given to teachers for Christmas, according to the March 21, 2012 LSC minutes. The gifts, however, never made it to the teachers.
“[Hayes-Tavares] said she left them on a desk at the school and they were stolen,” the LSC minutes read.
After this incident, the LSC decided to look closer into Hayes-Tavares’ alleged PTA exoneration, the LSC member said.
In response to the inquiry, Sandra Perrino, the 10th District director of the Georgia PTA, sent an email on June 14, 2012, which listed the results of the 2007 audit. The email, which an LSC member gave The Southerner, showed the findings included deposits coming up short and inappropriate use of petty cash, among others. The letter also clarified Hayes-Tavares’ standing with the Georgia PTA.
“Further, Georgia PTA is not aware of a letter exonerating Hayes-Tavares at this time,” Perrino wrote.
The LSC member said if the council were aware there was no letter exonerating Hayes-Tavares, she would not have been allowed to handle the gift cards.
“By lying she was allowed to be put in a position of leadership and access to money,” the LSC member said.
Hayes-Tavares addressed the audit under a Frequently Asked Question on her campaign website, which was removed by press time.
“Although this occurred in 2006 and although before that time and after that time for a total of 14 years, I had a pristine PTA leadership record, a few people have made it their mission to use it against me to pay forever for trusting other volunteers to do their jobs as I was trying to do mine,” Hayes-Tavares wrote.
On July 29, 2013, Hayes-Tavares also wrote an email to William Scott, director of the Office of Internal Compliance for APS, in which she claimed that since the audit was completed, the members of the 2006/2007 PTSA should be allowed to serve again.
Hayes-Tavares did not respond to several requests for comment about the PTA ban.
After Atlanta Progressive News editor Matthew Cardinale posted a story about the LSC’s accusations against Hayes-Tavares, three comments were posted to the online story within 50 minutes defending Hayes-Tavares.
One of the comments was signed “YoungMS Teacher”, another “T. Madhi” and the third was signed “Terry”, a resident of District 6.
“MY child was a student at [Young] when Ms. Hayes-Tavares was the PTA president [and] she was a knowledgeable, committed, and passionate LEADER,” username T. Madhi commented, in addition to other statements.
Cardinale saw that all three of the comments had the same IP address, meaning that they all came from the same computer. He found it to be Hayes-Tavares’ computer, because it had the same IP address as a comment in which Hayes-Tavares wrote in first person.
Hayes-Tavares said she was picking up her children when the comments were posted. Since her house is her campaign’s headquarters, it is possible campaign volunteers posted the messages from her computer. Cardinale did not find Hayes-Tavares’ claim to be credible.
“APN also sent emails to the [usernames’ emails],” he wrote. “One … bounced back. The other two emails have seen no response.”
‘I’M A PARENT, I’M NOT A POLITICIAN’
Hayes-Tavares’ campaign expenditures, obtained from the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commision, reveal that of the $4,970 spent by the campaign, almost $2,000 was paid to members of her family. The campaign paid over $1,500 to her husband for management and $400 to her daughter for ‘field operations’. Hayes-Tavares defended her record as an active APS parent.
“I just want to say that I’m a parent, I’m not a politician,” she said. “I am a product of [APS]. I have four children in [APS]. Again, I am not perfect … but I’ve been a perfect servant.”