She took their yearbook money, their picture money, and money they'd raised for their elementary school.
On Tuesday, Michele Wooley, former principal of Ottawa River Elementary, was ordered to pay back Toledo Public Schools nearly $35,000 that she stole between 2014 and 2016.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Myron Duhart also ordered Wooley to write a five-page letter of apology to the students she'd victimized.
“It goes without saying that your conduct is reprehensible given the fact that you were principal at this grade school,” the judge told Wooley. “With that comes responsibility. With that comes expectation. With that comes the requirement to be a role model — someone that these young, impressionable minds should be able to look up to. You violated that trust. You violated the trust of those who put trust in you.”
Wooley, 47, of the 6100 block of Rolland Drive pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to theft in office, a third-degree felony. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors recommended community control rather than prison for Wooley, who also agreed to repay $34,947.57.
Judge Duhart placed Wooley on community control for three years, ordered her to perform 100 hours of community service, have no contact with Toledo Public Schools, and to write that letter of apology.
“I'm going to suggest that the tone of that letter be a tone of humility and acknowledgment of your wrongdoing,” he said. “And hopefully there's something in that letter that will impart upon these other kids, when they come to a point in which they've got to make choices, something that would incentivize them not to make the wrong choices.”
Wooley apologized to the court for her actions.
“They were very hurtful. My family has had to endure things they shouldn't have because of my decision,” she said. “Trust that was put in me and my position, I violated greatly, and that hurt many people.”
Defense attorney Joseph Solomon told the court that typically when individuals steal from their employer they have a drug or gambling addiction. Wooley, he said, was involved in an abusive relationship with her ex-husband and became buried in debt.
He said she had no prior criminal record and had surrendered her license with the Ohio Department of Education.
“She will never get her license back,” Mr. Solomon said. “She'll never be able to engage in her profession so that's a real punishment.”
Wooley was suspended last November after the school became aware of the missing money. She resigned Dec. 16.
Judge Duhart said that if she violates the terms of her community control, she would face up to three years in prison.
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