Oscar Gonzales wanted the Hamilton Middle School band to play at every football game last fall. He also wanted to buy a pitching machine for the baseball team, a television monitor for a classroom and a lawnmower so he could keep the grass cut in a field on the Heights campus.
But Gonzales, who became president of the school’s parent-teacher organization at the end of last school year, could not make any of those purchases. He said he expected there to be at least $40,000 in the nonprofit’s bank account when he took over, but instead he discovered the account had been nearly depleted.
Harris County court documents show that former PTO president William Jaudon, who was arrested last month and charged with felony aggregate theft of a nonprofit, allegedly made nearly $24,000 in authorized withdrawals between June 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019.
“We easily could have done (all) that if the money wasn’t gone,” Gonzales said. “It’s really disappointing to see somebody that would do this, take away our ability to do more for the kids.”
Fortunately for Gonzales, the PTO and the students and teachers at Hamilton, members of their community are pitching in to help them replenish their financial resources. Gonzales said the PTO now has about $5,000 in its account – which had dwindled to about $2,000 last summer – and more money is on the way.
Gonzales said the PTO netted about $4,000 last fall, when Heights resident Kerry Mooney and her company, Century Resources, set up an online store for the campus that sells food, garden and kitchen products. Mooney said the PTO receives 40 percent of all profits through the online store, which will be open through May 31 at centuryresources.com. Hamilton’s account number to get credit is 50418.
After hearing about Jaudon’s arrest last week, the business manager at Oak Forest Veterinary Hospital decided to help as well. Tyler Moore, whose wife, Hallie Moore, is the owner and lead vet at the office on 2120 W. 34th St., said it has pledged to match up to $2,500 in donations to the Hamilton PTO.
Tyler Moore and Gonzales spoke earlier this week about setting up a website or social media page where members of the community can make online donations. The details were being worked out as of press time.
“At the end of the day, it’s all for the kids,” Moore said. “I just felt horrible for them and just wanted to reach out and support our community.”
Moore said he, his wife and other employees at their vet’s office do not have any ties to Hamilton. Gonzales, a Hamilton graduate who has had both of his sons go to school there, said the Hamilton family is appreciative of the support.
“That is fantastic,” he said. “That’s great.”
Gonzales said the PTO, which historically has helped to fund field trips along with teacher projects, learning tools and extracurricular equipment for the campus, is considering setting up other fundraisers. A former bailiff for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Gonzales said the ongoing court case involving Jaudon could result in restitution for the PTO, but he’s not banking on it. Jaudon’s next court date is April 17.
In the meantime, Gonzales said the PTO is implementing safeguards to protect its money moving forward. He said the PTO switched banks after its previous bank did not enforce the PTO’s policy of requiring three signatures for withdrawals. He also said the PTO plans to keep most of its money in a savings account, moving funds to a checking account as needed.
The PTO wants increased involvement, too. Gonzales said there are only four board members.
“The lower amount of people you have involved, the easier it is for people to do something like this,” he said.
The Hamilton PTO is grateful for those who are getting involved in its recovery effort, such as Mooney and Oak Forest Veterinary Hospital. At some point, the PTO hopes to again help the school it serves get everything on its wish list.
“We’re going to do the best we can,” Gonzales said.