January 30, 2023

Stipend scandal erupts in St. Joseph, Missouri

June 30, 2014

By Sam Zeff

When Chris Danford walked into the gym at Bishop LaBlonde High School in St. Joseph, Missouri for a January game against Chillicothe, she thought it was going to be just another night watching basketball. It wasn’t. What she gleaned that night as she waited in line to buy snacks would spark a whistle-blower lawsuit, an audit by Missouri state officials and a criminal investigation by the FBI.

“I thought it was a little problem but it turns out it’s like an iceberg,” says Danford now, five months after a chance encounter that would plunge the 16th-largest school district in Missouri into crisis and change the way she views public education. “It just keeps going, and going, and going. And it’s discouraging.”

Danford had been on the St. Joseph Board of Education for about 18 months, after a 25-year career as a teacher and counselor in the district, when she heard from a parent at the basketball game that the district was handing out $5,000 bonuses.

This was a district that had just cut $3 million from the budget.

Danford couldn’t believe the information she’d just heard was correct.

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