NORTH ADAMS — A former Hoosac Valley Middle and High School teacher who allegedly stole $2,629 in prom ticket proceeds has agreed to pay back the money as part of a plea agreement reached on Wednesday.
Kate Frissell, 34, of Hinsdale, allegedly failed to deposit some of the cash generated from prom ticket sales into a Adams-Cheshire School District bank account while she was serving in a student advisory role.
She has since been fired, according to Jeffrey Grandchamp, an assistant district attorney involved with the case.
The investigation into the theft began internally, with district officials including Principal Jeremiah Ames launching an inquiry in November 2015 after Frissell's fellow teacher and class adviser reported funds missing from the Class of 2016 junior prom ticket sales.
When district leaders verified the money was missing and identified Frissell as the lead suspect, they took action to terminate her employment and handed the investigation to Massachusetts State Police, according to the criminal complaint filed in February by Trooper Ryan Mauer.
Officials were able to calculate the missing revenue from the prom, which has already been held, by multiplying the number of tickets sold by the ticket price. It was estimated that the amount deposited was about $2,629 less than the amount generated by ticket sales.
Text message records indicate that while she was under internal investigation, Frissell tried to "force feed" to a teacher's aide a narrative of events that would back up her story, according to the criminal complaint.
When pressed by Grandchamp about the possibility of missing funds in December, Frissell's union representative allegedly told him that Frissell would only agree to answer questions if she were granted immunity in any impending criminal matter.
Police failed to coordinate an interview with Frissell several times, according to the report, before eventually appearing unannounced at her door for an in-person interview in December.
In the interview, Frissell denied stealing the money, according to the police report. She told them her colleague was not telling the truth, and she said she was being targeted by the district. Frissell already was the subject of another investigation into whether she was sleeping during class.
She told police that a student had taken a picture of her, but she was not sleeping in the photo. District officials countered that information in her personnel file — based on interviews with multiple students — directly contradicted her claims.
She was suspended in October 2015, but denied being under investigation for sleeping in class in a December interview with police.
Police also learned that some $1,400 appeared to be missing from the homecoming account, to which Frissell also previously served as an adviser. The district felt there was not enough proof against Frissell to press charges, however.
Although she vehemently denied being a drug user in interviews with police, Frissell was suspected of using by police, the principal, and fellow teachers who were interviewed.
Frissell admitted to sufficient facts in North Berkshire District Court on a single count of larceny over $250 that was continued without a finding until Sept. 26. In addition to the restitution, she was also fined $90.
Her attorney, Edward Fogarty, declined to comment when contacted by the Eagle.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376