/EINPresswire.com/ (Long Beach, NJ)—In 1986, I founded a network of schools for special needs students in New Jersey. In 2008, I lost them.
A former staff member went to the Division of Criminal Justice and turned us in for a slew of allegations—misuse of state funds, illegal distribution of bonuses, no-show jobs—none of which the attorney general’s office could prove true. Not even after more than four years of investigation. Because none of the things she alleged we did were really illegal.
Still, bent on justifying the resources they’d sunk into the case, the AG’s office came up with a charge of corporate misconduct. We had, in fact, recorded some of the purchases we made with state funds as expense items rather than capital items and this was, admittedly, incorrect. But it was a mere regulation violation that could have been handled administratively by the Department of Education.
Instead, the AG’s office criminalized it and gave my company’s leaders an ultimatum: one of us could plead guilty, or they would indict the schools and seven of our employees. That would undoubtedly lead to bankruptcy. For me there was no choice. I took the charge. I saved the schools. And I earned myself three months in jail.
I began my sentence with a feeling of peace, prepared to use the time to regroup. While incarcerated I read many books. I tutored other inmates. I earned the title of teacher once again.
I also learned much about myself: I had courage in the face of adversity and amazingly strong resolve. You never know what you’re capable of until you’re tested. I am one of the few who have experienced that firsthand.
Dr. Ellyn Lerner has over thirty years’ experience with special-needs students as a practitioner, researcher and director. Her new memoir, The Price of Leadership, details the investigation of her schools and the sacrifices she made to save them.
For more information, please visit www.ellynlerner.com.