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.

Sincerely,

Judge Steven Rhodes
Transition Manager

Public Statement

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.

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