The director of planning for Athens City Schools has been placed on paid administrative leave the day after he was named among six people, including the former superintendents of Athens City Schools and Limestone County Schools, in a federal indictment charging them with fraudulently enrolling private school students in public virtual schools and receiving state education money for their personal use.

“Upon reviewing the allegations against Dr. Rick Carter, Athens City Schools has placed him on administrative leave until further notice,” Superintendent Beth Patton said in a statement released today. “None of the other individuals charged in the indictment remain affiliated with Athens City Schools in any manner.”

Carter, 45, was previously director of innovative programs and principal of Athens High School.

“The Athens City Schools community is shocked and very concerned to read Tuesday’s release from the U.S. Attorney’s office,” Patton said. She said that the school district has fully cooperated with the Department of Justice as its investigation proceeded.

“The school system will continue to work with federal officials and the Alabama State Department of Education as the matter proceeds in court,” Patton said. “School officials have not discussed this matter at the request of federal officials, and will continue to refrain from discussing it.”

Carter's annual salary is $122,766. According to Patton, under tenure law, he has to be on paid administrative leave.

A federal grand jury indicted William Lee "Trey" Holladay III, 56, of Athens, the former Athens City superintendent, and former Limestone County Schools superintendent Thomas Michael Sisk, 55, of Toney. Others indicted are Holladay’s wife, Deborah Irby Holladay, 57, a former teacher in the school district; and David Webb Tutt, 61, of Uniontown and Gregory “Greg” Earl Corkren, 56, of Tuscaloosa, both longtime friends of Trey Holladay, according to the indictment.

All six defendants are charged with conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud. Trey Holladay, Carter and Corkren are charged with aggravated identity theft for allegedly obtaining confidential student information to assist in the scheme.

The Athens City Schools Board of Education will hold a special called board meeting at 7:30 Thursday morning at the central office and plans to hand out Patton's statement. “There will be no opportunity to ask questions at the board meeting and no interviews,” according to the district’s communications specialist Ginger Hickman.

The 80-page indictment accuses the defendants of conspiring to fraudulently enroll students in Athens Renaissance School and Limestone County Virtual School. They’re charged with falsely inflating the systems' enrollment numbers in reports to the Alabama State Department of Education.

The districts received payments from Alabama’s Education Trust Fund as if the students actually attended public schools and the defendants then kept some of that money for their personal use, according to the indictment.

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marian.accardi@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.

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