BUFFALO, N.Y. – An assistant superintendent in Buffalo received two years of probation for stealing from a federal anti-poverty program she oversaw for low income students.
Former assistant superintendent Deborah Buckley stole about $15,120 from the district’s federal Title I program for low income students between 2009 and 2010 through a scheme with her son, Hassan El Saddique, WIVB reports.
Buckley, 56, financed her son’s job as a computer consultant for the Buffalo School District, where she controlled more than $100 million in federal grants each year, according to The Buffalo News.
Buckley was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Federal and State Programs before she was removed from her job in September 2011 amid an FBI investigation and eventually fired.
She repaid the $15,120 and begged U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny for leniency, the News reports.
“I just ask for forgiveness from those I’ve harmed,” she said at her sentencing Wednesday.
“I just ask that you have mercy,” Buckley said. “I’m having a real tough time.”
Skrethy cited Buckley’s “genuine remorse” in eschewing a recommended one year prison sentence and instead sentenced the former administrator to probation, the News reports.
The News reports Buckley received two years of probation, while WIVB reports three years.
“She breached her trust. She knows that,” defense attorney Herbert Greenman told the court. “But she’s been punished enough. She’s paid her debt.”
El Saddique previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received one year of probation.
According to the News:
Investigators say the amount Buckley and her son stole – $15,120 – is relatively small in comparison to the overall size of the anti-poverty program, but suggested the thefts are symbolic of a bigger problem.
The prosecution also is seen by parent activists and other critics as evidence of a school district that was late discovering the thefts and, when it did, looked the other way.
Students in Buffalo schools, meanwhile, aren’t doing so well.
State data for 2016 shows a mere 16 percent of third- through eighth-grade students are proficient in English Language Arts, and the same percentage meet the threshold in math.
Only 12 percent of the economically disadvantaged students that Buckley was tasked with helping tested proficient in those subjects in 2016.