DES MOINES, Iowa -- For three years Eric Van Dorin was the face of Moulton Elementary. "When I'd bring my kids to school here he was always giving high-fives and had a great smile and his own style with tattoos. He was just hip and with it," said Amanda Kephart who has a child enrolled at Moulton. She believed the principal helped change the school's culture. "The inner city schools, we struggle a lot with teachers getting along with kids and being able to handle them appropriately."
Luis Orellana another Moulton parent, said his kids had an educator to be proud of. "He was outstanding. He had this communication with the community and the kids." The school district says it literally came at a price. One that used school finances for his own purpose. "I'm shocked that it happened," said Amanda.
Des Moines Public School District documents show in August they began an internal audit of purchases made by Principal Van Dorin with Moulton school funds from July 2015 to July 2017. "It was a big mistake and he shouldn't have done it," Amanda said.
The audit revealed just under $5,000 of purchasing items for personal use which included clothing, bluetooth speakers, a smart watch and nearly $2,000 worth of sports memorabilia and collectible figurines like Funko Pops which were displayed in his office. "That kind of disappoints me and hurts my heart because these kids really need it and there are some good kids that have a lot of things going on in their life and families and they need things to get a better education," said Amanda.
Van Dorin resigned August 31st after the audit but parents say they were left in the dark. Amanda said, "I liked him, I missed him. I wondered why he left."
While the internal audit describes Van Dorin's purchases as a misuse of funds there are parents of Moulton school kids who say each purchase had a purpose. "That was a passion to attract the kids to bond with the kids and to bring kids to learn. My kids even got to learn to read with him," said Luis.
No charges have been made by the district at this time and the Board of Educational Examiners has suspended Van Dorin's teaching license until June 2018. Luis said, "We are not going to fall apart but he sure was a strong hand with the kids and with everybody in the neighborhood. We do miss him dearly."
Van Dorin reimbursed the school with over $1,800 and returned many of the other items. The district plans to hand out all of the collectible figurines and sports memorabilia as prizes to students at the school.