Teacher’s resignation raises storm over San Andrea fraud allegations

Veteran San Andrea teacher claims he was forced to resign after his allegations to school board over fraud were not taken seriously

Former San Andrea assistant head Trevor Templeman
Former San Andrea assistant head Trevor Templeman

A senior educator at the independent San Andrea school has alleged a former chairperson of the school board has defrauded the school of over €200,000.

Trevor Templeman, who resigned his post as assistant head of the school in the wake of the revelations on 14 October, says he was given this information in the presence of other staff employees, by the school principal and the head of finance.

His allegations have been meticulously recorded in statements he sent to the parents of San Andrea pupils, with a recording of a detailed testimony he gave to the school board in September.

Templeman, 41, joined San Andrea school in 2005 and has been a teacher of various subjects. He is a former Sliema Wanderers F.C. midfielder.

Now having stepped down from his role, Templeman sent documentation to San Andrea parents in which he says school principal Stefania Bartolo and finance head Leanne Spiteri told him and other staff members that the former San Andrea chairperson, Kevin Spiteri, had issued €200,000 in cheques for unaccounted ‘miscellaneous’ payments without official consent.

Templeman says Spiteri called this “fraud”, and that she also revealed that a former administrator was paid on his departure not to blow the whistle on the allegations. Templeman said that in this meeting he learnt that Spiteri had demanded that his children’s school fees are waived, and that he had engineered the rental of a private warehouse of his in Mrieħel to the school, right before his term as chairperson came to an end, for a sum running into millions.

School board testimony

Templeman sent parents a recording of his detailed, 40-minute testimony to the San Andrea board, recounting how principal Bartolo and Leanne Spiteri had “made a whole scene” when communicating the allegation of fraud. He said Bartolo had “stated she hated [Spiteri] and did not want to have anything to do with him anymore… she felt betrayed by him. At this point, I was speechless… did the ex-chairperson steal a large sum of money from the school?

“My colleague asked at point blank: ‘Are you saying Kevin Spiteri actually stole the money?’ Sefania’s answer was: ‘Of course! Who could have taken them then?’”

The shocking revelations deeply hit Templeman, who knew Spiteri personally.

But the next day, a turn of events further complicated matters: at an after-work dinner between Templeman and the three witnesses, Kevin Spiteri was asked to join the party, by none other than Stefania Bartolo herself. “I thought I was going crazy. Stefania’s attitude was very relaxed as if nothing had happened. She ordered a bottle of wine, and asked us to toss our glasses to celebrate our ‘true’ friendship,” Templeman said.

Shocked at this attitude, Templeman and another colleague confronted Bartolo three days later. “Bartolo apologised and started crying. She said that she should have never given us this information and that she did ‘use us to her benefit in an egoistic way’.”

Templeman decided to take the allegations to the present chairperson of the school, Alex Tortell, the detail of which he relayed on 1 June, 2022 in the presence of the school’s head of wellbeing Ryan Portelli.

“I was shocked... I could not believe that Mr Tortell took Stefania’s side at all times,” Templeman said. The next day, the school board wrote to Templeman to recommend he take three days’ leave: “We take allegations against members of the staff seriously, so the board will give you the opportunity to explain yourself and substantiate any allegations you levelled against the Principal.”

School board raises January 2022 cyberbullying case

Two months passed since Templeman spoke to Tortell – during which the school board learnt of a pending, cyberbullying criminal case against the teacher.

The incident concerns the use of Templeman’s smartphone by his 15-year-old niece, who sent a harassing message to a girl she accused of bullying her, using his Instagram account.

The alleged bully’s mother engaged a lawyer to inform the school of the incident. Templeman says the letter was sent on 31 January 2022 to principal Bartolo. “Ms Stef told me ‘don’t worry... I’m throwing it in the bin’... in the presence of Kevin Spiteri, who although no longer a board member, was then still present in the offices. I insisted that the letter be given to Mr Alex Tortell.”

Templeman relayed these details in his school board testimony, his voice clearly showing the emotional impact that the death of his sister-in-law, had had on his niece. “My sister-in-law passed away in December 2021. My brother entrusted his daughter to my academic supervision, given that she had spent two months away from school, so that she prepares for her O-levels.”

Templeman’s niece, distraught at the loss of her mother, told her uncle that she had been bullied by a girl at school, who had taunted her over her mother’s death. “She showed me her Instagram profile on my smartphone... I told her to report the matter to the school head,” Templeman said, having previously piloted San Andrea’s very own anti-bullying policy.

Days later Templeman learnt his niece had used his smartphone to react to her bully’s Instagram ‘story’ with the comment “pig’s nose” (Imnieħer ta’ ħanżir). Templeman called the girl’s mother to apologise for the incident, who instead proceeded to take legal action. “I reported all this to Stefania Bartolo and Alex Tortell. I had nothing to hide,” he told the school board.

Reassignment of duties in summer 2022

Two months after having told Alex Tortell of Bartolo’s claims of fraud, the school chairperson emailed Templeman, informing him that he was being reassigned. “The school is taking an extremely serious view of the fact that an assistant head is currently undergoing criminal proceedings aggravated by the fact that the alleged victim is a minor. Additionally, we take a very serious view of the fact that a professional... did not feel the duty to disclose a fact such as this to his employer,” Tortell said in a letter.

Templeman has now told parents he felt the school was intimidating him foir having reported the alleged fraud. “Mr Tortell wanted to find a reason to fire me so as to shut me up and as revenge for disclosing that information as regards the school’s finances,” he told parents in an email.

Templeman also told parents he had sent principal Bartolo a legal letter, over rumours she had spread throughout the summer school period, claiming he was facing an online sexual harassment case with a minor.

Testimony to school board in September 2022

Templeman finally testified to the school board in September 2022, in a 40-minute testimony that was brought to an end with no reaction from board members. His lawyer, Chris Said, also informed the school that his client should be reinstated as assistant head.

But on 10 October, Tortell issued a final warning to Templeman, claiming insubordination after the teacher had not transferred himself to another office to take up his new ‘coordinator’ duties. “Your attempt to link this matter with other issues, which are being dealt with appropriately, does not hold water. Your status as a defendant in a criminal case involving a minor, warrants the precautions the school is obliged to put in place... given the very serious insubordination, you leave the school with no other option but to administer a final warning...”

Templeman submitted his resignation on 14 October, telling parents that Tortell and Bartolo were protecting each other. “As a result, it is very obvious that unfortunately I cannot consider myself being part of the staff of San Andrea School anymore.”

School board reacts

Contacted for a reaction to the allegations, especially those on financial fraud by his predecesor, Alex Tortell told MaltaToday that Templeman’s allegations to the board were followed up with immediate action to set up a board of inquiry. “We are awaiting the outcome of the investigation. At this stage therefore, the School will not enter into the merits of the allegations made.”

Tortell said Templeman had abused of confidential information at school by using parents’ personal data to reach out to them, as well as disclosing the school board recording of his testimony, despite a prior written warning to ensure confidentiality.

“This regrettable behaviour on his part has left the school with no option but to proceed with the authorities in order to protect the parents and other individuals whose personal data has been disclosed without their consent. Mr has never claimed whistleblower status and his actions in disclosing confidential information and breaching data protection surely negate any such status,” Tortell said.

Tortell said the school has suffered the repercussions of the precautionary measures it took over Templeman’s situation, due to the cyberbullying charges he faces in court. “San Andrea School is proud to be one of the foremost independent schools and has an excellent track record in the care and education of its students.”