A former dean of students at Mastery Charter Schools' Thomas campus in South Philadelphia faces charges alleging he stole nearly $6,000 in cash and student SEPTA tokens and TransPasses from the school over the weekend.
Antonio Dandridge, 35, who resigned from the school last month, was arrested Monday night at his home in West Philadelphia and charged with burglary, theft, and receiving stolen property, a police spokeswoman said.
Dandridge, who had worked at the school since August 2006, allegedly used another employee's swipe card to enter the building Sunday.
Police allege he stole $1,829 in cash from a file cabinet in his former office, three boxes containing $3,000 worth of student SEPTA tokens, two tan metal cash boxes with $300, and 14 yellow envelopes containing 50 student TransPasses valued at $750.
Dandridge could not be reached for comment.
It's the first scandal at one of Mastery's charter schools - which have earned national accolades - in its six-year history.
Dandridge's arrest stunned staff and disappointed students, said Scott Gordon, Mastery's chief executive officer.
"A number of kids looked up to him," Gordon said.
Thomas, a former district middle school that Mastery converted two years ago, enrolls 400 seventh through 10th graders.
Mastery administrators called police Monday after a staffer discovered that money set aside for school trips, the SEPTA tokens, and the TransPasses were missing, Gordon said.
Administrators reviewed videotapes from security cameras and saw that a man they believed to be Dandridge had entered the building at 1 a.m. Sunday.
When police went to Dandridge's home to arrest him, they said, they recovered SEPTA tokens, TransPasses and cash.
Dandridge resigned abruptly Nov. 19, the day after a member of the cleaning crew saw him enter the school about 9:30 p.m. with an unidentified woman, Gordon said. Dandridge later sent away another crew member who knocked on his door to clean his office, Gordon said.
Principal Jill Dunchick met with Dandridge at 4 p.m. Nov. 19 to tell him that bringing non-Mastery personnel into the building after hours violated school policy, Gordon said. By that time, Dandridge had announced he was leaving to join a social-services agency.
Dandridge cleared all criminal background and child-abuse checks when Mastery hired him, Gordon said.
As one of the two deans of students at Thomas, Dandridge handled discipline and attendance and participated in the school's weekly community meetings. He had received satisfactory job ratings from his supervisors.
After learning Tuesday of Dandridge's arrest, administrators discussed how to inform students and their parents. A staff meeting was held Wednesday, and a letter to parents was drafted.
Students were told of Dandridge's arrest during a meeting yesterday.
Mastery typically notifies students of "sensitive situations . . . in schoolwide 'community meetings' where facts can be shared and students have an opportunity to discuss the issue and their feelings in a supportive environment," Gordon said.
Mastery Charter Schools began with a high school in Center City in 2001 and quickly earned national acclaim for its academic successes. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Education named Mastery one of 15 "Exemplar" charters, and the NewSchools Venture Fund of California awarded Mastery a $2.65 million grant to expand its model.
After the high school's success, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission authorized Mastery to convert Thomas Middle School into a charter in fall 2005.
The commission later allowed Mastery to convert two other troubled middle schools into charters: Shoemaker in West Philadelphia and Pickett in Germantown.