DARK TO DAWN: Hermantown PTO gets big donation after alleged thefts

Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 5:52 PM CDT
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HERMANTOWN, MN. (Northern News Now) - The Hermantown Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) got a big donation from a local business after it found more than $100,000 was allegedly stolen from the organization.

The president of the organization, Cyndi Lewis, sent a letter to parents on October 4, detailing how the missing money was discovered.

In the letter, Lewis wrote, “I became aware of a problem when some of our checks bounced, and I stopped at the bank for statements.”

Lewis continued, “That same afternoon as soon as the issue came into focus, I stopped at the Hermantown Police station to start a case and report a suspected crime.”

After reporting the alleged crime, she notified the Hermantown Elementary Principal and Superintendent of the district.

“We’ve already immediately closed the accounts and opened new accounts,” Lewis said. “We ordered double-signature checks. We’re going to be going over everything on a monthly basis.”

The Hermantown elementary school PTO, helps teachers buy supplies, get scholarships, and put on events like kindergarten round-up.

Lewis said the incident has made it hard for the board to function.

“It has been such a difficult few weeks for us,” she said.

Since news broke about the missing money, Lewis talked about getting some unkind words on social media.

“Bullying sometimes happens out of ignorance,” Lewis said.

Those social posts don’t speak for everyone though. Arrowhead Orthodontics wanted to help out the PTO.

“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” Lewis said, “and this is helping us see the light in the community.”

Lewis and the board were given $10,000 from Arrowhead Orthodontics. Kirstin Carlson donated the check on behalf of the office.

“It’s really important to us that their support goes uninterrupted,” Carlson said. “They’re able to continue with the excellent programs they do.”

Carlson said her own kids go to the school, and having a functioning PTO is important to everyone’s success.

“I have two kids at this school too, so for us, it’s like helping their teachers who we interact with daily,” she said.

Police say evidence shows a 42-year-old suspect connected to the PTO allegedly wrote 31 checks to herself, totaling about $43,000.

She also allegedly stole almost $60,000 through debit card purchases and cash withdrawals.

Hermantown Police said they are still investigating the alleged theft and have not made an arrest in the case.