More Than $5,000 in Student Body Funds Stolen

“This is your money. They stole from you guys… And that’s why that hurts.”

Leadership+sold+tickets+to+the+basketball+game+at+the+ticket+window+at+the+front+of+the+new+gym.

Taila Lee

Leadership sold tickets to the basketball game at the ticket window at the front of the new gym.

Emma Chiu and Taila Lee

What Happened

More than $5,000 in cash was stolen from Woodside student body funds after the senior basketball game versus Menlo-Atherton on Friday, February 14.

Girls junior varsity was the first game of the night, followed by boys junior varsity and girls varsity. The final game, boys varsity, began at 7:45 pm. Leadership students sold tickets for between $4 and $8 with prices varying based on age-related discounts and PAL stickers.

Following the game, leadership stored the money in the ticket booth at the front of the new gym. The money, which included both profits and the initial “seed money” that leadership students used as change, was kept in plastic bags within a tote bag.

“We started putting stuff in the ticket booth because we [could] lock it, and it [was] late,” Colby Peck, Woodside Board of Student Affairs (BOSA) vice president, recalled. “We didn’t want to bring everything back up to leadership… It was practically vacant, with some stragglers from M-A and Woodside still there. We closed the ticket booth, I said my goodbyes to Ms. With, and walked out.”

As Peck was leaving, she noticed an ambulance pulling into the Woodside parking lot. This medical emergency forced leadership to break protocol, leaving the booth unattended.

“Somebody had gotten hurt, and we needed to call 911,” Student Activities Director Leslie With explained. “I went out with Mr. Faulkner to go check on the situation. I had closed the door to the ticket booth.”

Normal protocols were followed, but there were some extenuating circumstances that kind of got us out of those protocols.”

— Charles Velschow

Unbeknownst to With, the booth was not locked; for convenience, leadership students had put tape over the door slot to prevent it from locking.

“That way, if Ms. With needs to get back into the ticket booth for whatever reason, she doesn’t have to keep unlocking the door to get in,” Peck explained. “We forgot to take the tape off, so the door went into the hinge but it didn’t lock. So, somebody could have just pulled the door open and gone in and taken it.”

When With returned to the booth 20 minutes later, the money was gone.

“Somehow, between when I was working dealing with the emergency and went back into the ticket booth, the money was gone,” With said. “We couldn’t find it.”

With called several leadership students to confirm that none of them had more information and filed a police report the following morning. After the break, she discussed the situation with her classes.

“On Monday, we had a meeting: all of us in BOSA and D7,” Peck said. “Ms. With broke the news to everybody else and talked about how… we’re going to be running a tight ship from now on.”

 

Timeline

The following times are approximate.

Friday, February 14

8:30 pm – Leadership students’ closing shift begins.

9:15 pm – The varsity boys basketball game ends.

9:20 pm – Leadership finishes cleanup.

9:25 pm – Ms. With dismisses leadership students from their shift early.

9:40 pm With leaves the ticket booth to attend to a medical emergency with Timothy Faulkner.

10:00 pm – With returns to the ticket booth and the bag of money is missing.

After 10:20 pm – With and others check security cameras.

Saturday, February 15

With files a police report.

Monday, February 24

With informs her leadership students about the theft.

 

The Investigation

Administrative Vice Principal Charles Velschow is currently leading an ongoing school investigation. Although the police have been notified, they are not actively investigating.

To establish a general timeline and better understand what may have happened, administration is examining security footage and taking official statements from people believed to be “in the general area at the time that the money went missing,” according to Velschow.

However, there are no security cameras in the foyer of the gym and therefore no record of who entered the ticket booth.

“The footage we have is only of people walking out of the actual gym, so it’s not from the ticket booth itself,” Peck said. “If somebody was smart about it, they would have put it in their backpack.”

As of now, Velschow is unable to disclose what the disciplinary action would be, but he encourages students to come forward with any relevant information.

“It would be a lot better for anybody in their self-interest just to come to us and let us deal with it as a school, so that, if we do find out, we don’t have to go to law enforcement,” Velschow stated.

The investigation will continue for at least one more week, but Velschow explained that it could continue if the administration receives new information.

 

The Effects

With explained that leadership will be making changes to their general proceedings to better ensure future security.

“For the most part, we’ve always been very good about this system, [but] we’re going to have to look and change some things,” With said. “We’re looking into putting a safe in there [and] looking at our practices of how we carry the money around.”

In addition, With will no longer allow non-leadership students to access the ticket booth to charge their phone or store their belongings.

“I’m going to be really restrictive about who can be in that room,” With stated.

Prior to the basketball game, BOSA voted to use funds from the student body savings account to lower the cost of prom tickets.

“Prom costs about $100 a student, [but] we aren’t charging you for that much,” said With. “BOSA had previously voted to take some of our savings and put $5,000 towards prom. That $5,000 makes a difference of $10 in the prom price per person.”

It’s still this deep gut punch to have something like this happen.”

— Leslie With

With more than $5,000 stolen, BOSA is concerned about meeting various expenditures, especially due to lower-than-expected returns on football games and PAL sticker sales. However, they still plan to allocate the same amount of money towards prom. To make up for the missing funds, leadership may raise costs of PAL stickers or parking next year, but With will reassess the budget at the end of the school year.

“I’m going to wait to see how we do with the year and with our budgets, then I’ll look what we have in our savings and then make a decision, probably with the new BOSA team,” With said. “But I think right now, when something like this happens, it’s not going to be best to make a quick decision.”

In the meantime, leadership has begun to fundraise by selling car wash vouchers for $12 each.

“We will definitely need to focus all efforts on [it] now to hopefully make up the money and potentially more,” Peck said.

While the Woodside administration continues to investigate, With is determined to look at the situation positively.

“It is hard for our Woodside community,” With said. “I’ve always been very proud of our community… But when something bad happens, we have to then just pick up and go forward.”