SINGAPORE: A teacher with Woodgrove Secondary School on Wednesday (Nov 28) claimed trial over two charges of misappropriating about S$40,000 meant for students' learning materials.
Maslinda Zainal was deployed to the school in Woodlands in 2002, rising to become the Head of Department (HOD) for English in 2006, the court heard.
In her capacity as HOD, Maslinda led the English department, setting work to be done, planning programmes for students and selecting materials for lessons.
The 44-year-old, who reported to the vice-principal and had a gross monthly salary of S$8,800, was also in charge of collecting money submitted by students to their English teachers for learning materials known as Excel packages.
These packages, which included English subjects such as grammar and comprehension, were prepared by teachers in the school.
Maslinda was to hand the money to the school bookshop, which would print the materials for the students.
However, she allegedly over-collected money from the students between January 2016 and April 2017. The discrepancy between the cost of the packages and the amount she collected was about S$40,000.
Maslinda, who is represented by defence counsel Singa Retnam, has been suspended.
SHOCKED AT SUCH A LARGE OVER-COLLECTION: PRINCIPAL
The principal of the school, Mr Chee Chit Yeng, took the stand on Wednesday as the prosecution's first witness.
He described to the court how the misappropriation was first detected by the school's lower-secondary head for English, Ms Jacqueline Chan.
Ms Chan had asked the bookshop owner about the materials and if the packages had already been paid for.
"The bookshop lady said yes and showed her invoices," said Mr Chee. "When she looked at the amounts reflected, it was significantly different from the amount collected from the students."
The information was then relayed to Mr Chee, and Maslinda was mentioned as she was "the one who liaised with the bookshop vendor and settled payment".
"The materials were supposed to have been produced by the bookshop. The students should have paid for and purchased the materials directly from the bookshop," explained the principal. "That would have been the normal procedure."
After this, Mr Chee tried to collect evidence by obtaining copies of the name lists of all the classes, book lists issued to the students and invoices from the bookshop.
However, the shop was able to provide only invoices for the years 2016 and 2017, as it was not able to retrieve records from 2015 and earlier due to a round of housekeeping, he said.
Together with the vice-principal, Mr Chee created a table tallying up the figures of what the packages should have cost and how much Maslinda collected.
He found a discrepancy of about S$40,000.
"Personally, I was quite shocked that there was such a large over-collection," Mr Chee said.
He said he had had a good working relationship with Maslinda and she had led the department satisfactorily during his time as principal, beginning in 2013.
After this, Mr Chee contacted the discipline unit of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and made a police report on Apr 7, 2017.
Maslinda was later released on bail and suspended. In her absence, Ms Chan took on her roles and shared her duties with other teachers.
The trial continues on Thursday.
The prosecution intends to call at least nine witnesses, including Ms Chan, the owner of the bookshop, teachers from the English department and MOE investigation officers.
If found guilty of criminal breach of trust, Maslinda could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, MOE said it takes a "serious view" of educator misconduct.
"As the matter is before the courts, we are unable to reveal any details," it said.