Feds investigating Detroit’s reform schools, threatening to become another Chicago.


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

The day before CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett went to court to plead guilty to corruption charges in Chicago, The Detroit News reported that the FBI was investigating possible illegal activities during the time  Byrd Bennett worked in Detroit.

According to six-month expenditure reports from May and November 2011, DPS paid $1,487,654.08 to Synesi for “Consultant Services/Curriculum/Office of Accountability.”

The report from November 2011 also lists an invoice of $128,698.77 to Synesi as “disapproved.”

In a statement Tuesday, a DPS spokeswoman said the district is cooperating with authorities.

Synesi is the venture run by Gary Solomon and Tom Vranas, the indicted co-conspirators with BBB who are pleading not-guilty, as least for the time being. Synesi marketed the “Vallas Model” of school reform around the country.

By the way, the whole Paul Vallas, Tom Vranas, Paul Vallas connections is detailed here.

Keith Johnson, a former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said Tuesday he was “surprised and disappointed” when Byrd-Bennett was charged. “She worked very well with me while she was with DPS, and she was very instrumental in helping me get our peer assistance and review program together” for the district’s teachers, he said.

Johnson noted that Byrd-Bennett and DPS had faced criticism during the 2009-10 school year for a $40 million contract the district entered with book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcout. Byrd-Bennett once worked for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Then yesterday The Detroit News reported that the FBI has also launched an investigation into corruption in the Detroit Education Achievement Authority.

The EEA was created by Michigan’s version of Bruce Rauner, Governor Rick Snyder.

According to a document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, one target of the investigation is Kenyetta “K.C.” Wilbourn, ex-principal of the authority’s Mumford High School.

Wilbourn, 40, of Harper Woods was seen as a rising star, a 4-foot-11-inch turnaround specialist at Denby High School with a “GUCCI1” personalized license plate and a 2007 Maserati. She abruptly resigned last fall after FBI agents searched her home.

“I thought she was going to be the next person to run EAA. She was that sharp,” said former DPS and EAA contractor Andrew Rio, who consulted on athletic projects. He is not involved in the investigation.“It breaks my heart, but money makes people funny.”

Financial irregularities were made known to Governor Rick Snyder as long as two years ago, according to The Detroit News.

Since the EAA took over operation of 15 low-performing Detroit schools in 2012, the EAA has been under heavy scrutiny by education groups and Democratic politicians in the Legislature who have worked to scuttle plans to expand its reach beyond Detroit.

(Former EAA Chancellor John) Covington’s departure came about one month after The News reported he and his staff racked up $178,000 in hotel bills and airfare traveling to 36 cities from April 2012 to February to promote the EAA and attend education training conferences.

One thought on “Feds investigating Detroit’s reform schools, threatening to become another Chicago.

  1. Same thing should happen in Detroit as happened here, with indictments, & same suggestions as per assets/properties seizure. I read somewhere that what happened in Chicago “didn’t directly impact the students.” (Unfortunately, I forget where–will look up when I have more time.)
    What an ignorant piece of reporting.

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