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Cheryl Pruitt

Cheryl Pruitt

CROWN POINT — A judge scheduled a September bench trial for a former Gary school superintendent charged with stealing from the district as it faced state takeover. 

Cheryl Pruitt, 56, appeared Monday before Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell with defense attorney Scott King.

In an unrelated matter, Pruitt was placed on leave from her new job in Chicago last month, school officials said.

Pruitt was charged Oct. 5 in Lake Criminal Court with felony counts of theft and official misconduct, which allege she deposited a $1,256 reimbursement from the district into her personal bank account after the district already had paid $1,617 from its extracurricular account to a district credit card. The money was intended to pay for her business trip in May 2016, records say.

The state took over the Gary Community School Corp. in 2017, delegating all authority of the School Board and superintendent to an emergency manager who could cut costs and pay off more than $100 million in debt.

Boswell scheduled a pretrial hearing for Aug. 30. Pruitt's bench trial is set to begin Sept. 30.

After leaving Gary, Pruitt began serving as CEO of Chicago Virtual Charter School. However, she was placed on paid administrative leave in late May, pending the outcome of an internal investigation, the CVCS board of directors said. 

Chicago Public Schools, which oversees the K-12 hybrid charter school in Chicago’s West Loop, has initiated oversight measures of CVCS upon learning of allegations of mismanagement earlier this year, CPS officials confirmed.

When made aware of additional allegations involving CVCS, the Chicago district reached out to its Office of the Inspector General, which advised it was investigating CVCS, according to district officials.

"Chicago Public Schools takes seriously any allegation of financial impropriety and the district is imposing additional oversight and accountability measures that must be taken by CVCS," CPS Press Secretary Emily Bolton said. "If the school fails to meet the district's standards for integrity and financial management, the district will not hesitate to initiate the formal revocation process."

CPS did not directly address if this investigation relates to Pruitt's administrative leave, but did say in an email CVCS has been advised it must take appropriate employment action against any school officials facing allegations.

CPS is also imposing that the financially-troubled virtual school restrict any and all school payments made without board approval for the remainder of the year.

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Public Safety Reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.