Ecorse schools under state and federal probe

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jun 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-07 12:29:37-04

The state Department of Education confrims to 7 Action News they are actively investigating Ecorse Public Schools. The federal government will soon be too, as it involves the misuse of federal grant money.

The 7 Investigators have obtained documents from the state that show Ecorse "engaged in intentional misrepresentation" of a school improvement grant worth millions. That grant has now been pulled, and another could be yanked as the investigation widens - says the state.

An audit found, the potentially illegal use of tax exempt gift cards as a form of compensating teachers. Gift cards paid for, the district admits, with grant dollars.

And it gets worse - $3,000 dollars worth of those questionable gift cards are missing, stolen from an unlocked box. No police report was filed.

The other charges from the state:

  • Falsification of documentation.
  • Conflict of interest.
  • Intentional circumventing of procedure, policy and payroll processes.

"There are some concerns that have been identified," said Superintendent Thomas Parker.

When asked if Ecorse schools can be trusted with grant money he said, "Absolutely. Ecorse Schools has shown over the past three years we have been great stewards over resources for kids."

He conceded, "There are bumps in the road."

The 7 Investigators also learned the superintendent was visited by FBI agents after high school principal Nina Hicks was indicted in the Detroit Public Schools bribery scandal. Agents seized electronic devices and are currently investigating if Hicks was involved in any illegal behavior while at Ecorse.

As for those missing gift cards?  

"We are taking initial steps to ensure all our materials are safe and secure." Parker says.

But as far as who is responsible for that, and the other activities under investigation, no disciplinary or criminal action has been taken against anyone at Ecorse schools.