KUSD principal charged, accused of taking school property for her church, in-home day care for years
MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee woman, principal at a Kenosha Unified School District school has been criminally charged, accused of taking property from the school for use at her church and in-home day care for years.
Cherise Easley, 39, faces one count of misconduct in office/act/inconsistent duty — accused of stealing money from Edward Bain School of Language and Arts (EBSOLA) between June of 2015 and October 2017.
A criminal complaint says police spoke with the superintendent, who indicated employees are not allowed to utilize school district property for personal use, and employees are also not allowed to take school property from the school and fail to return it. He reported property had been taken by Easley — the principal at EBSOLA.
Prosecutors say a custodian told investigators at the end of the 2016/2017 school year, he was called into Easley’s office and informed she needed a podium, whiteboard and easel “for her church.” Investigators learned Easley and her husband ran Urban Praise Ministries in Milwaukee. The custodian said he told Easley he couldn’t give her those items for her church, and she said “OK.” He then left for a week-long vacation, and when he returned, he was informed by other custodians that Easley had asked them to help her move a podium, whiteboard and easel so she could take them. The items sat in the hallway for a bit, and one weekend, the custodian reported Easley and her husband came to the school and Easley asked him to assist her husband in moving the items to her husband’s car. Easley’s husband then disassembled a whiteboard and easel and placed them in his car, but the corkboard couldn’t fit. The custodian said he installed it in someone else’s office “because he didn’t feel it was right for Easley and her husband to take those items.”
This custodian reported during the summer of 2016, Easley had removed some children’s classroom furniture from the school, and investigators learned Easley and her husband also owned and operated a day care center out of their home. The custodian said he’s told Easley she can’t take property from the school “but she takes advantage of the other custodians when he’s not around.”
Another custodian said during the summer of 2017 Easley asked for help loading some items into her car, including a podium and an easel. He said he placed the items on a cart and wheeled it to receiving where Easley had parked. The podium was loaded into her vehicle but other items wouldn’t fit so she said her husband would be back for them later.
A third custodian said three years ago, he noticed Easley asking for school property to be brought to her — indicating that in the summer of 2015, there were early childhood items in a hallway slated to be brought to a storage room including a large play kitchen, and Easley and her husband took it from the school. It was so large, the custodian said Easley’s husband had to take it apart and take it from the school in two trips. He also said in October of 2016 Easley requested a keyboard — and he placed a keyboard, stand and bench on a cart and hasn’t seen the items since. He also reported in the summer of 2016 he saw Easley take a large industrial-type fan from the library.
The complaint says the school’s music teacher told investigators Easley had asked to use the keyboard because her daughter was starting music lessons. She said Easley didn’t return it, but she didn’t question it “because (Easley) calls the shots.”
A technology support technician at the school said in late summer 2017 he received a call from Easley, requesting a “VGA cable” and an audio cable. He said he brought the VGA cable to Easley’s secretary and told her the audio cable needed to stay in the cafeteria. It was later noted to be missing from the cafeteria. A broken cable was returned by Easley after she said her son had to get it out of her car. Another one had to be purchased, and the VGA cable was never returned, according to the complaint.
Easley’s home and day care were searched on Oct. 30, 2017. Her husband agreed to assist investigators in locating items belonging to the Kenosha Unified School District, and multiple items were found in the basement, where the day care was located. The keyboard bench and stand were in a child’s room, and Easley’s husband advised that the keyboard was being cleaned after there was a fire in the home.
At Easley’s church, the complaint says investigators found a laptop computer and projector with stickers on the back identifying them as belonging to the Kenosha Unified School District, along with a podium matching the description of the one taken from EBSOLA. The laptop was signed out to Easley in November of 2014 and the projector was signed out in September 2014. The laptop was analyzed, and the complaint says it appeared school related work on the computer ended in September 2015. After that, it was primarily used for private business and personal matters of Easley and her husband.
The complaint says Easley was also assigned an iPad and laptop in May of 2016 and October of 2014 respectively. These items weren’t returned to the school.
Investigators met with Easley in October — and she said she’d asked to borrow the music equipment because “she wasn’t sure her daughter would stick with the lessons and she didn’t want to buy it until she knew her daughter would stick with it.” She said she planned to return the items in September, but then there was a fire at their house and it “slipped her mind to bring the items back.” She said there was a raffle for the kitchen set which she won, so she brought it home for use in her day care. She said she borrowed the podium for her ministry after asking a custodian if she could. She said she was going to borrow the easel but ended up not taking it. She said she didn’t recall having a fan loaded into her car. She said she did borrow a VGA cable for a basketball celebration unrelated to KUSD, and said it was in working order when she returned it on Monday after borrowing it for Saturday. She said she had all electronic items signed out to her.
The complaint says other teachers indicated there was a raffle for a plastic play grill set but not the kitchen set. They looked at pictures of the day care and identified multiple items from EBSOLA and a basketball hoop from Headstart.
Easley is due in court for her initial appearance on Jan. 29.