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Compton schools chief ousted after probe found $14,000 in personal charges to district credit card

October 13, 2010 |  8:05 am

The board of the Compton Unified School District has voted to fire the district superintendent over her use of district credit cards for personal purchases.

Kaye E. Burnside had been on administrative leave since late May. The board’s 4-2 vote Tuesday night to fire her came after a district-commissioned investigation into her credit card use.

The investigation found Burnside had made about $14,000 in personal charges on the district card and did not reimburse the district for several thousand dollars’ worth of those charges.

The exact amount of unreimbursed charges is still unclear.

Burnside said in a public statement before the vote that she believed she had reimbursed the district for all personal use of the card and that she had been unaware that it was against district policy to make personal charges on the cards. Previous administrators had been doing so for 26 years, she said.

In her statement, Burnside threatened legal action against the district, saying that if the board voted to fire her, it would be wrongful termination.

“I had the courage to make decisions that moved the district forward. In doing so, I undoubtedly stepped on some toes," she said. "...The manner in which I have been treated clearly smacks of retaliation and harassment."

School board members declined to comment in detail on the reason for Burnside’s firing. Board President Mae Thomas said, apart from the credit card issue, she felt Burnside had brought too many consultants into the district at a time when the district was facing staff layoffs.

“I think the teachers need to have more of a voice in what we do,” Thomas said.

The handful of community members who spoke at the meeting backed the ousted superintendent, citing gains in test scores and student achievement in her two-year tenure. Yolanda Lopez, a Mexican immigrant and the parent of two district students, said Burnside took pains to reach out to previously disenfranchised Latino families by providing translated materials and improving the district’s programs for students learning English as a second language.

“When the superintendent came, she listened to the parents’ complaints -– she opened the door,” Lopez said in Spanish.

Former deputy Supt. Karen Frison has been acting as superintendent since Burnside was placed on leave. Thomas said the board has not determined how to move forward with finding a permanent replacement.

-- Abby Sewell in Compton