A charter school principal in Volusia County resigned after writing a $100,000 check to an internet scammer posing as Elon Musk.
Dr. Jan McGee worked at Burns Science and Technology Charter in Oak Hill since its inception. The school and McGee have always been well thought of. Burns Science and Technology is A-rated with just under 1,000 students and a huge waiting list. The principal who has guided it all these years is a superstar in many circles, but a huge lapse in judgment has cost her her job.
“I am a very smart lady. Well-educated. I fell for a scam,” McGee said.
McGee told a packed audience she was taken in by a fake Elon Musk, someone posing online as the space pioneer. Someone she’d been talking with for at least four months despite being warned by staff that the person was a fraud. She claims he groomed her.
“Grooming is when you talk to somebody and you believe in them, and they get you to trust them that this is really real, and so I fell for it,” McGee said.
For years, principal McGee talked to anyone who would listen about getting Musk and his money involved in the STEM school, a stone’s throw from the Space Coast, and apparently thought she’d finally gotten his ear.
“Somehow she believed it,” board chair Albert Amalfitano said. “He must have been really convincing.”
Amalfitano says that McGee wrote a $100,000 check out of the school’s account. She reportedly believed the person she made the check out to was Musk’s right-hand man.
“Matching funds with this guy and he was supposed to give like $6 million to the school,” Amalfitano said.
The principal had the authorization to write a check up to $50,000 out of the account but no more without board approval, which she did not get. Fortunately, the school’s business manager, Brent Appy got wind and stopped the check before it cleared.
“I put myself into this position and into this mess, and I made a bad decision,” McGee said.
McGee apologized to the board and the community but other issues with the principal were brought up as some described a toxic work environment. When three other administrators said they would leave rather than work for her, McGee resigned and left the meeting with her husband who was a teacher but has also resigned. The board chair says it was the only possible outcome.
“When you lose the respect of… When your leadership is now in question, you can’t properly lead, and that’s going to cause chaos,” Amalfitano said.
The administrators who voiced concerns over McGee’s behavior are in charge, but the board has committed to doing a national search for a principal. They also plan to hire an outside investigator to do an investigation into all that went wrong here and hire an outside agency for a thorough audit.