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GOWANDA SCHOOL CLASS FUNDS MISSING

Money is missing from the senior class, yearbook, varsity baseball and school store accounts, but Gowanda School District officials have decided that senior year activities will continue.

The funds were discovered missing during routine checks of accounts in December. School district auditors and attorneys are investigating.

School Superintendent Charles Rinaldi said Wednesday that the senior class trip is still scheduled, as are other senior class activities. The amount of the loss is not yet known, Rinaldi said.

All of the accounts were under the control of senior class adviser Lawrence Gill, who also taught business and coached varsity baseball. He is on paid suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.

In the meantime, Rinaldi said, there are options to restore the accounts before the seniors graduate.

"If the courts determine any wrongdoing, it is possible to file an insurance claim, since employees are bonded and it is possible the students' accounts could be reimbursed via the bonded policy," Rinaldi said.

It is also possible that restitution could be ordered by the court system, he said.

Under state education law, seniors can borrow from other classes' funding to pay vendors, but they are prohibited from using general funds to reimburse the loss.

"Our priority is to find out exactly how much money is owed, balance all of the accounts up to and including reimbursements, money owed to vendors and misappropriated funds," Rinaldi said.

An audit of accounts dating from last July prompted Rinaldi to direct auditors to examine accounts dating back from 1996 that were under Gill's supervision.

"We are cooperating with law enforcement and are not giving out numbers (of the loss totals) until we have more conclusive figures for that entire period of time," Rinaldi said.

State Police Investigator Fred Andriaccio said he is waiting for the district's final tally before making any comments on the investigation.

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