Tonto Basin’s recently built Little Red Schoolhouse has come to symbolize the small community’s spirit of perseverance and unity.
After the state facility board put a halt on funding new construction projects several years ago, residents banded together and through fund-raisers collected enough donations to build a new preschool.
Now one of those fund-raisers and founding members of the project has had to pay back $8,400 she withdrew from the project’s bank account for her own use, according to a police report. Laura Schroeder, 49, of Tonto Basin, admitted to Tonto Basin Superintendent Johnny Ketchem and Gila County Sheriff’s Deputy Peter Licavoli nearly a year ago she misused thousands of dollars starting in Sept-ember of 2008, but that it wasn’t her “intention to take the money and leave,” according to the report. The school decided against perusing criminal charges against Schroeder, instead allowing her to repay the funds.
On March 24, 2010, Ketchem reported to Licavoli that he had confronted Schroeder about misusing the funds and she had admitted outright to wrongdoing. Ketchem then reported the matter to the Gila County Attorney and Sheriff Offices.
On March 29, Licavoli met with Ketchem, school business manager Beverly Steele and project contractor Justin Taylor. All admitted they had known nothing of Schroeder’s misdeeds. Taylor, who was co-signer on the schoolhouse bank account, said he was blindsided and wasn’t aware anything was going on until the end of December 2009 when he received a “phone call from Schroeder advising him of what she had done,” the police report said.
When Licavoli interviewed Schroeder on March 29, Schroeder said she planned to tell Ketchem eventually. The report does not mention how Schroeder spent the money.
On April 9, 2010 Schroeder deposited $2,000 into the schoolhouse bank account and eventually paid off the remaining debt.