A former Beaumont Independent School District (BISD) Assistant Superintendent has been sentenced for federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Patricia Adams Lambert, 62, of Beaumont, pleaded guilty on Dec. 28, 2015, to theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and conspiracy to submit false statements concerning standardized test scores and was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison today by U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield. Lambert was immediately taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Also sentenced today was Victoria Gauthier Steward, 31, of Lake Charles, LA. Steward pleaded guilty on Dec. 23, 2015 to conspiracy to make false statements, related to the manipulation of BISD test scores and was sentenced to three years of federal probation.
According to information presented in court, Lambert was hired by BISD on June 13, 2002, as a teacher, and on Aug. 28, 2002, she was promoted to Assistant Principal at Vincent Middle School. On July 15, 2004, Lambert was promoted to Principal and assigned to French Middle School, and on July 1, 2006, she was assigned to Central Medical Magnet High School (“CMMHS” or “Central”) as Principal. As Principal of Central, Lambert was responsible for oversight of the campus; managing personnel; ensuring proper reporting of grades, testing, and attendance to BISD administration; and financial oversight for certain aspects of the campus. On May 17, 2012, Lambert was promoted to Assistant Superintendent.
States are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) of 2001 to implement academic assessment tests in order to receive federal funding under the NCLBA. The NCLBA requires the Texas Education Agency to develop, implement, and regulate the student assessment tests. In Texas, public school students are required to take end-of-year assessment tests at particular grade levels. Students must pass these tests in order to move on to the next grade level or graduate. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) requires that campus principals and test administrators sign “Oaths of Test Security and Test Confidentiality,” ensuring full compliance concerning test security and confidentiality. Through words and actions, Lambert created a culture at CMMHS among the faculty and staff where cheating on standardized tests was accepted. Lambert, either directly or indirectly, encouraged teachers and staff to manipulate students’ standardized test scores or had knowledge that cheating occurred. Despite the fact that she knew that cheating was occurring on standardized tests, she signed and submitted Oaths of Test Security, including one in January of 2010, as alleged in the indictment, where she falsely affirmed all the requirements governing standardized test security were met. The government could prove, through first-hand witnesses, that teachers would aggregate large numbers of tests and then erase and change incorrect answers to correct answers after students turned their tests; teachers would give students answers while they were taking the tests; and that test manipulation occurred on a regular basis from 2007-2012. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is mandated by the US Department of Education to administer and regulate standardized testing, including maintaining test security. As part of its test security measures, TEA requires that teachers abide by all test security regulations and sign Oaths of Test Security. These test scores are then communicated to the US Department of Education, who relies on the scores, among other metrics, in determining the appropriate disbursement of federal education funds. The falsified oaths were capable of misleading TEA or the US Department of Education.
In October 2007, Lambert took over control of the CMMHS “All Sports” Booster Club from the parent/volunteers who previously ran the Booster Club. From that point forward, Lambert had access to Booster Club funds by way of the Booster Club checking account. From 2007 until 2013 Lambert made purchases of personal items, not related to school activities, by using Booster Club checks and the Booster Club debit card. During this same time period, Lambert wrote and signed Booster Club checks fraudulently made out to herself, her relatives, and “cash,” and deposited those checks into her own personal bank account, knowing she lacked the proper authority to do so.
In addition, during the relevant time period in the indictment, Lambert also had access to the CMMHS Student Activity funds account. From 2007 through 2013 Lambert purchased items, some of which were for her personal use or the use of her family members, and other items not related to school activities, by writing checks on the CMMHS Student Activity funds checking account. During this same time period, Lambert wrote and signed Student Activity fund checks fraudulently made out to herself, and others and deposited those checks into her own personal bank account, or those of her relatives, knowing full well that she had no authority to do so.
Additionally, from 2007 through 2013, Lambert employed her son, Brian Collins, as the primary “printer” for various items including, but not limited, to pamphlets, flyers, banners, football programs, graduation programs, and instructional materials, and helped secure his payment for these items from Booster Club, Student Activity fund, and the BISD general fund, knowing full well that Collins, rather than doing any actual printing work, was securing the services of an actual printing business, and marking up the price for that work anywhere from 25%-215%.
During the years Lambert was principal at CMMHS, the school generated significant amounts of cash through various means. For example, when students were found with cell phones on campus or lost their student ID cards, they were required to pay a monetary penalty, usually approximately $10. Lambert also established an on-campus snack sales area, located near the cafeteria, where students could purchase candy and chips for approximately one dollar each. This money was aggregated in a file cabinet drawer in the bookkeeper’s office, and Lambert maintained access to this area. Between 2007 and 2012, Lambert made regular and substantial cash deposits into her personal bank accounts, totaling approximately $171,525.
From Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 31, 2010, Lambert, while an employee of BISD stole, embezzled, obtained by fraud, or otherwise without authority knowingly converted to the use of another property in aggregate amounts adding up to $5,000 or more, from BISD in the manner stated in the paragraphs above. During 2010, BISD received in excess of $10,000 in federal funds through various federal grants and programs.
This case was prosecuted as part of the Joint Task Force established in March 2014 between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute major crimes – more specifically, violent crime and crimes related to the abuse of public trust in Jefferson County, Texas.
If you have any information related to this matter, please call the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 409-832-8571.
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Education Office of Inspector General, the Texas Education Agency, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Beaumont Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph R. Batte, Christopher T. Tortorice, Bob Wells and Bradley Visosky.