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City School Board Silent on Former Vice Principal Sentenced to Jail This Week For Stealing Student Fees

Attorney Says Questions About District Employee Who Stole $26K Are "Out of Order"
Richard Kaplan and Ed Spencer
Superintendent Richard Kaplan (left) says he himself found the accounting errors that led to the arrest of Patricia Ruggeri. Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—As expected, Patricia Ruggeri was sentenced to 364 days in jail and ordered to re-pay the $26,090 in student fees that she admitted to stealing while a Vice Principal at New Brunswick's Adult School.

Ruggeri will also be forever barred from public employment in the State of New Jersey.

Last November, Ruggeri was arrested just days after voters decided to institute school board elections for the first time in city history.  According to authorities, she had stolen thousands in fees paid by students attempting to take an exam to earn their Graduation Equivalency Diploma (GED).

On October 3 of this year, Ruggeri plead guilty to a third-degree theft charge and will avoid going to state prison under the plea agreement offerred by Middlesex County's Prosecutor Andrew Carey.

But New Brunswick's school board members had little to say about Ruggeri when asked about her admission of guilt at their public meeting Tuesday night.

"We cannot discuss that," twice said Ed Spencer, the President of the Board of Education, while talking over the author of this article.

"That's out of order, there's charges pending.  That is nothing for this board to consider a legitimate question, I would rule," said board attorney George Hendricks.

She made a salary of at least $91,060 as a vice principal at the city's Adult Learning Center, according to public records.

Ruggeri's crimes occurred between April 2011 and July 2012, according to a statement from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office.

In June 2012, Ruggeri took a leave of a leave of absence and eventually resigned to take a job with Rutgers-Camden. The investigation began after her resignation in September according to the statement.

"During her leave, school officials detected discrepancies in student fees and contacted authorities... The investigation is continuing to determine if additional funds are missing" read the November 2012 statement.

New Brunswick's Superintendent of Schools Richard Kaplan never responded to New Brunswick Today's inquiry about Ruggieri, but told another reporter that he himself had discovered the financial discrepancies and reported them to local police.