This week, teachers in the 21st Century Career program for Wilkinsburg Middle School will get training on how to use a 3-D printer the district obtained with federal grant money to help students learn science, technology, engineering and math concepts.
Also this week, the former director of the after-school program, Christopher Spradley 31, of Lincoln-Lemington, will face a preliminary hearing on a felony theft charge for trying to sell the printer at a Downtown pawn shop last fall, according to a police criminal complaint.
Police said Mr. Spradley also is accused of taking two laptop computers and two Xbox gaming systems from the school program. His hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday before Wilkinsburg District Judge Kim Hoots. Mr. Spradley could not be reached for comment.
Upon confessing the thefts to school officials, Mr. Spradley said "he owed money and was being threatened," according to a police criminal complaint filed by Detective Sgt. Wayne McKenith Sr. of the Wilkinsburg police.
Sgt. McKenith said in the report the attempt to sell the 3-D printer was on Oct. 28, but police were not called to school district offices to take a report until Nov. 5. That day, superintendent Lee McFerren told police that Mr. Spradley had stolen computers and a printer from the middle school and sold them at Ninja Entertainment.
In a meeting the next day with Mr. McFerren and Linda Croushore, executive director of The Consortium for Public Education, which partners with the Wilkinsburg district on the 21st Century Program, police were told the school district was notified Oct. 28 by Ninja Entertainment on Smithfield Street that Mr. Spradley was trying to sell a 3-D printer valued at $3,200.
The printer contained the school district logo, which prompted a pawn shop employee to call the school. Principal Candee Hovis told the employee to call Pittsburgh police, who allowed Mr. Spradley to leave the shop with the printer, the complaint said.
Later that day, Mr. Spradley took the printer to consortium headquarters in McKeesport and told Ms. Croushore that a friend recommended that he go to the pawn shop to learn how to use it. Ms. Croushore called the pawn shop, but the employee told her that Mr. Spradley was there to sell the printer and that he had been there previously to sell computers.
After further investigation, police said, Ms. Croushore learned that Mr. Spradley had sold two laptops at the shop the previous week. The laptops had been purchased by the consortium for the Wilkinsburg Middle School program.
Later two more computers were recovered from Mr. Spradley's home, police said. After an inventory of equipment was conducted, the program was still missing two Xbox consoles worth $520 and another laptop computer valued at $530.
On Nov. 5, police said, Mr. Spradley met with Ms. Croushore and offered three Best Buy gift cards in the amounts of $500, $250 and $50 as restitution for the missing electronics.
The next day, when questioned by police, Mr. Spradley said he was "in a dire situation" when he took the computers and that he had planned to replace then within a week.
Mr. McFerren said Mr. Spradley was fired as soon as the thefts were discovered. The 21st Century program has been taken over by Ms. Hovis, the middle school principal. Mr. McFerren said that after teachers learn to use the 3-D printer, students will begin to use it.
Mary Niederberger: email@example.com or 412-263-1590.