Transition Manager Update: Statement by Judge Rhodes regarding charges filed by US Attorney Barbara McQuade
Dear Detroit Public Schools Staff,
I wanted to share with you the statement that I released earlier this afternoon regarding the charges filed by US Attorney Barbara McQuade today against six current and seven previous DPS employees. This is the link to the press release from the Department of Justice issued today.
Judge Steven Rhodes
Detroit Public Schools was advised this morning by US Attorney Barbara McQuade of the charges being filed against six current and seven previous DPS employees. The District has been cooperating fully with the US Attorney’s Office since the beginning of the investigation. Upon learning of the charges, I immediately instructed the District’s Employee Relations Department to place those individuals who are current employees on unpaid administrative leave.
I cannot overstate the outrage that I feel about the conduct that these DPS employees engaged in that led to these charges. And I am sure that this sense of outrage is shared by the other dedicated and committed DPS employees, as well as DPS parents and everyone who is interested in the future success of DPS.
The actions of these individuals are reprehensible and represent a breach of the public trust that has deprived our students of more than $2.7 million in resources.
This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and will never be tolerated. Illegal behavior of any kind will result in immediate suspension and possible termination.
DPS has suspended business with Mr. Shy and all of his companies. We will no longer do business with him or his companies.
To ensure that this does not happen again, we are immediately putting into place the following checks and balances:
- Suspend all purchases by individual schools until further notice;
- All school-based purchases will require Central Office approval;
- Suspend, until further notice, the ability by Principals and Assistant Principals to sign-off on or execute any vendor agreements and contracts without Central Office approval by the Superintendent’s Office, Finance and/or Procurement;
- Require two signatures (principal and Deputy Network Leader of Operations) on all school-based invoices before they will be paid;
- Conduct a review of all purchases made by the DPS employees identified by the US Attorney;
- Begin a full review of all school-based vendor contracts to determine if all or a portion need to be terminated and rebid;
- Recruit an independent auditor to do a thorough review and assessment of procurement processes and procedures to ensure they are in compliance with all state and federal rules and regulations.
Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather is working to ensure that the six schools affected by this situation have leaders in place when students return from Spring Break on Monday, April 4, 2016.
The affected schools and their new leaders are:
- Bennett Elementary: Dina Bonomo (current AEA in the building)
- Marcus Garvey Academy Kim Marie Lane (current AEA in the building)
- Jerry L. White Special Education Center: Ramona Vincent (current AEA in the building)
- Marquette Elementary-Middle School: Deborah Sinclair (current assistant principal)
- Spain Elementary-Middle School: Oneika Newman (current AEA in the building)
- Thirkell Elementary Middle-School: Denise Connelly (current assistant principal)
This unfortunate situation should not be a reflection on the vast majority of DPS’ dedicated, responsible and ethical employees.
I want to encourage any DPS employee who has a concern about potential fraud or criminal activity to immediately contact the District’s Fraud Prevention Hotline at (313) 870-3436.
I took this job because I want to help the children of the city of Detroit. I will not let these circumstances distract me from my goal of leading the orderly transition of DPS from state control to local control, as promptly and efficiently as possible.
Finally I call upon everyone who is interested in creating a successful future for public education in Detroit to forge ahead with full attention to the needs and interests of our children.
DPS Transition Manager Judge Steven Rhodes Promotes from Within to Fill Key Transition Team Role; Names Alycia Meriweather Interim Superintendent
Long-time DPS educator to work with Judge Rhodes to prepare District for return to local control; lead day-to-day operations of Academics, Talent and Strategy Divisions
Detroit Public Schools Transition Manager Judge Steven Rhodes today announced that he has named long-time DPS educator Alycia Meriweather to be the District’s Interim Superintendent. Meriweather, who is a Detroit resident and DPS graduate, will lead day-to-day operations in DPS’ Academics, Talent and Strategy Divisions, while Rhodes retains the balance of leadership responsibility for the District. They will work in partnership to transition the school system to local control as provided in legislation pending in Lansing.
“It was important to me that we looked within Detroit Public Schools – as well as the city of Detroit – to identify a qualified individual to fill the Interim Superintendent’s position,” said Rhodes. “As a veteran educator who has served at many levels of Detroit Public Schools’ Academic operations, and has also played a key role in the strategic direction of the District over the last year, Alycia’s skills and experience make her uniquely qualified to serve in this critical leadership position. It is also important that Alycia has strong respect and support among her peers both inside and outside the District. I look forward to working with her.”
Meriweather, who began her career at DPS in 1995 as a science teacher at Farwell Middle School, most recently was Executive Director of the Office of Curriculum. Prior to her appointment to that position, she spent four years as the Deputy Executive Director of the District’s Office of Science, as well as two years as the Supervisor of Middle School Science. For the last several years, Meriweather has also led the Academic and Programmatic leadership over DPS’ Detroit Children’s Museum, as well as Camp Burt Shurly, the District’s overnight camp facility in Gregory, MI.
Additionally, for the last seven years, she has served as the Director for the Detroit Mathematics and Science Center, one of 32 centers in the Michigan Mathematics and Science Center Network. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Michigan, a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Wayne State University, and is currently working on her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction at Wayne State.
“I have been with Detroit Public Schools since I was a four-year-old in the District’s Head Start program. I am a graduate of DPS and a lifelong resident of the City of Detroit. The success of DPS and its students is personal for me,” said Meriweather. “Since I was a little girl teaching my stuffed-animal students in the attic of our house in Detroit, I knew that I would be a teacher in Detroit Public Schools. My time at DPS has been the most rewarding experience of my life. To be able to bring my range of academic experience and incorporate educator insight and perspective is critical to Detroit Public Schools’ future. As a voting Detroiter, I am in full agreement with Judge Rhodes, that returning DPS to local control needs to happen as soon as possible.”
Potential candidates for the position of Interim Superintendent were submitted by a broad range of individuals and groups. All candidates were vetted jointly by Judge Rhodes and the Governor’s Office. Also, the leadership of the Detroit Federation of Teachers played a key role in identifying the most important qualifications for the position.
“I want to thank DFT leadership for their significant assistance in this process, and I look forward to their continued support and cooperation as we transition DPS to local control,” said Rhodes.
Meriweather did not initially seek the position. Her name was advanced to Judge Rhodes by both teachers within the system and members of the community.
“While I did not put my name forth for consideration, I am extremely honored that my peers and colleagues had such confidence in my abilities that they would,” said Meriweather. “Moving forward, their continued support of me, and their ongoing support of the District they have dedicated their lives to, will be essential to making the changes necessary to bring about improved academic outcomes for all of our students.”
One of Meriweather’s top priorities will be visiting each of the District’s 97 school buildings. During these visits, she wants to spend time in classrooms with teachers and students to, “see what they see, hear what they hear and experience what they experience.”
She will also be focusing on standards-based academics, differentiated instruction, District culture and climate, career and technical education, early childhood literacy and improving experiential/alternative learning environments and opportunities for DPS students.
“The Detroit Public Schools still face large challenges. But with the talent and expertise of Judge Steven Rhodes and Alycia Meriweather at the helm, we will see a smooth transition to local control,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “And with the passage of my $715 million improvement plan for the District, that local control will start fresh with the resources it needs to provide a quality education to Detroit students and teachers in the environment they need and deserve to have.”