Ypsi High’s new principal, Tanya Bowman, named in federal corruption probe of Detroit Public Schools

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Yesterday it was announced that Tanya Bowman, the new principal at Ypsi High, was named among 12 current and former Detroit Public Schools (DPS) administrators charged in a federal corruption case involving the large-scale purchase of school supplies that rarely, if ever, actually made their way into the hands of students. Prior to joining Ypsilanti Community Schools, Bowman had been principal of Osborn Collegiate Academy of Math, Science and Technology in Detroit, and it was at Osborne, according to the Detroit Free Press, that Bowman is thought to have accepted $12,500 in kickbacks from businessman Norman Shy of Franklin. Shy, according to the Free Press, has been accused of “paying $908,500 in kickbacks and bribes to at least 12 Detroit Public School principals who used him as a school supply vendor in exchange for money — some for as little as $4,000, another for $324,000. He secretly did this for 13 years, scamming school after school to the tune of $2.7 million with the help of principals who benefited along the way, prosecutors allege.”

While it’s usually the case that federal prosecutors don’t name names unless they feel relatively certain that they have enough evidence to secure a conviction, I think it’s important to stress that, as of right now, Bowman has only been accused of a crime, and not actually found guilty of it. Having said that, however, it certainly doesn’t look good that prosecutors have given an exact dollar amount that Bowman is thought to have accepted, which would indicate to me that they’re in possession of Shy’s records. At any rate, please try to remain objective when discussing the case here. I know, if true, it’s a terrible thing that Bowman has done — conspiring to enrich herself by taking resources right out of the hands of our most vulnerable students — but, until the case is concluded, we just don’t know.

update: Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, the Superintendent of Ypsilanti Public Schools, just issued the following statement.

Dear Ypsilanti high school families,

As some of you may already have learned, Y​psilanti Community High School​ principal Tanya Bowman was one of 13 current or former principals at Detroit Public Schools indicted on federal and conspiracy charges. This came as a complete surprise, and the district took immediate action and placed Ms. Bowman on administrative leave​ and have ​temporarily named Scott Snyder, Principal​ of Yp​silanti New Tech High School, as Interim Principal until further notice. New Tech’s SLC Teacher, Trish Thomas, is serving as Interim Principal until we can secure a placement for either school. I met with YCHS students and Mr. Snyder met with NT students to talk to them about the situation this morning.

Rest assured that we are doing all that we can to maintain a normal learning environment at the high school and to secure administrative coverage. The education of our students is a top priority and we are working diligently to keep our focus on teaching and learning.

As information becomes available, and is appropriate to communicate, we will keep you updated. Thank you for your support of Ypsilanti Community Schools and your cooperation as we move through these difficult circumstances.

Sincerely,

Dr. Benjamin Edmondson

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42 Comments

  1. Peri Stone-Palmquist
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    What a sad and difficult situation for YCS. The high school is filled with absolutely wonderful, dynamic, inspiring young people with struggles many of us could not imagine. They deserve strong, consistent, warm and caring leaders, who value student, parent & teacher voice, who understand what it means to be trauma-informed and restorative, who fight for all students to receive an education. For many of the students I work with, this has been a challenging year to say the least. I hope better days are ahead.

  2. Posted March 30, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I have a feeling this is all just the tip of the iceberg. I remember how one year (in DPS), we suddenly switched textbooks. No warning, just one day we were told we wouldn’t be using the textbooks we’d been using for years. Was there something shady with that? Especially since we went back to the original textbooks later on? How about the time we all got wi-fi installed in our classrooms, but the computers didn’t have wi-fi and even if you had a laptop, there was no password for the wi-fi so it was not usable.

    This is all so disgusting.

  3. Concerned Citizen
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    What a tremendous black eye this puts on YCS and the superintendent, as this was one of his first hires as the district leader. Certainly makes you question is ability to recognize talent and more importantly, his ability to recognize good people. YCS is becoming more like a circus than a school district.

  4. Brainless
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    This is all so painful. Sadly, the “you can’t let the Detroit schools run themselves” crowd now has all the ammunition they need to prove their point. Basic financial controls are incredibly easy. It’s a solved problem for which you need invent nothing. Just follow well-known basic procedures. So much so that you’d have to aggressively pursue an organizational structure where this DOESN’T occur.

  5. Lynne
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Yeah. I’ve actually wondered a lot about corruption and how to best deal with it. I sometimes wonder about oversight in large organizations. I was pretty convinced, and still am even with a lack of evidence, that DPS made the decision to tear down the old Cass Tech and build a new one because someone knows someone who was the contractor. It is just the same old same old in Detroit. I wonder if it is the inevitable outcome when you have a large organization and a vulnerable population.

    Remember that whole “shovelgate” thing where the city employee got pressured into writing snow tickets and then just had the contractor clear the sidewalk (or say they did) without issuing any warnings? The only reason that came out is because people started talking to each other but also because Ypsilanti has people willing to go to city council and make a stink. A small town council is more approachable, imho.

    Anyhoo, the federal government at least has the GAO to do some oversight. I would suggest that something like that could work for the state to hold the State government and all the municipalities and school districts accountable for how the spend their money.

  6. Lynne
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Re: “you can’t let the Detroit schools run themselves” crowd

    Brainless, I’ve had to remind more than one person that this occurred while DPS was not running themselves, fwiw. They’ve been run by the State for years now.

  7. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    There might be some merit to a counter-argument that the wrong doing was only caught after DPS was not running themselves, no? I don’t know the particular so I don’t know.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I don’t see it as a black eye for YCS unless she started using this same person as a vendor in Ypsi. How could Ypsi administrators know that she’d taken $12k in bribes? Should they just now interview anyone from Detroit because “everyone knows they’re corrupt”?

  9. Anonymous
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    If prosecuted, she’s facing a quarter million in fines and five years in prison.

  10. jcp2
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    DPS has been under an EM since 2009. This case dates back 13 years, or to 2003. My sense is that a little bit of quid pro quo is tolerated in many organizations as long as everything is going well. One could make the argument that this grease is part of the functionality of the institution. It’s only when things go poorly that the rules get tightened up.

  11. Mr. X
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    And this is just one vendor’s network. This likely goes a lot deeper.

  12. Lynne
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Frosted Flakes, sure, that would be the counter argument. There are a lot of people in denial about some major systemic problems in our state who also are racist a bit and if there is any way for them to believe that DPS’s problems are the result of bad management and a lazy black population, they’ll take that option.

  13. Concerned Citizen
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I think it is a black eye on YCS because a proper vetting out of a candidate should have revealed something since this investigation dates back two years.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Corruption is not unique to businesses or government. Vigorous transparency seems the only solution. And efforts to reduce concentrations of power. There are probably problems inherent to that as well.

  15. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Lynne,

    The counter argument to that is–there are a great many people, who, due to their own political disposition will be quick to insinuate that the possible corruption here is due to DPS being under state control and by extension the corruption here is Snyder’s fault.

  16. Posted March 30, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Lynne, I totally agree re: Cass Tech. I also seem to recall some schools getting mega updates and remodeling only to be closed a year or so later.

  17. Lynne
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    FF, yeah. That is true. But the truth is probably that the problem is systemic and would happen no matter who is in charge.

  18. Parent Out Here
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    have been reading comments on Mlive and am quite disturbed by this one:

    ” My former principal in AAPS used Title I monies to buy Holiday gifts for the staff for many years, and not cheap ones either. And since he retired he has served as a consultant helping write teacher evaluations for a charter school in DPS. The principal of that charter school was let go from AAPS… And now the consultant is serving as a consultant for YCS, mentoring new principals… Go figure…”

    I think YCS should investigate if funds are being stolen from our district. I am disappointed and upset to read headlines of a YCS principal being charged with stealing from vulnerable students. I want to know who the consultant is the Mlive commenter is talking about too. I want real answers and am afraid the community won’t get them.

    When I think about how hard I struggle to support my family and all the ups and downs my household has (and has) going to school in Ypsi and still support(ed) our schools, it angers me to read Freep articles about principals bilking schools and showing up to work in expensive sports cars obtained by fraudulent means. It is a slap in the face!

  19. site admin
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone remember this story?

    “As we contemplate a brighter future for Ypsi public schools, an anonymous letter alleges financial impropriety at YPSD under Martin tenure”

    http://markmaynard.com/2013/02/as-we-contemplate-a-brighter-future-for-ypsi-public-schools-an-anonymous-letter-alleges-financial-impropriety-at-ypsd-under-martin-tenure/

  20. Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I guess the good news is that Ben Edmondson took immediate action to put her on administrative leave, and communicated with parents and staff.

  21. Parent Out Here
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Site Admin,

    Thank you for the link. I’m sorry I missed out the first time it was posted. I hope none of those employees are still working for YCS.

  22. Maria Huffman
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    It is unclear how Peri Stone Palmquist comments belong in this thread. Is she saying the students should have some kind of restorative justice program with the alleged corrupt administrator?

  23. Maria Huffman
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Because I think it is a good lesson, for people to learn, there are times when someone does a person wrong, and then the FBI shows up. No reason for high school kids not to realize that.

  24. M
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    No, I think she’s saying that there were other problems with this principal.

  25. Peri Stone-Palmquist
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Maria, no I wasn’t trying to make a comment about how the courts should handle the consequence for the principals. I was trying to articulate, not very well, that our students are being let down and they deserve and need more. Period. …… On another note, I find it ironic that the same administrators who seem to find any reason to suspend students may have had some serious infractions of their own.

  26. Maria Huffman
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Oh. Okay. I was not sure where you were going with your comment.

  27. YCS Parent
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    There is nothing good about this situation and Ben doesn’t get any props for placing her on administrative leave. Had he done his due diligence in the 1st place YCS would not be in this position. What were the circumstances surrounding Ms. Bowman leaving Osborn? Was she fired? I believe Ben and Tanya had some sort of connection before she came to YCS. Who else was apart of the decision to hire her? Whether she ends up being convicted or not, this is another HUGE BLACK EYE for YCS!

  28. Jay Steichmann
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    I’ve picked up on several threads here, which are somewhat related, and which begin to get at the root or roots of the problem. I would first like to echo Peri Stone-Palmquist’s reminder that there are a lot of good people in the classrooms in YPS, on both sides of the desk.

    One thread speculated about the timing of this, pre-and post-EM, another about the relative sizes of the Ypsilanti, Detroit, and Michigan governments and a citizen’s ability to be heard and effect change, and lastly speculation about the amounts of the kickbacks and how the schemes may have operated.

    You can speculate that the problem began in 2009 or 2003, or yesterday. Likely, it has been “this is how we do things here” for decades. I heard stories of supplies that were bought but never made it to individual schools thirty-five years ago. I honestly think that if a corrupt system is well established and well oiled, the new hires don’t see corruption, they are indoctrinated in the “way we do things.” Most of the amounts are petty in the overall scheme of things, and if the vendor/s portray the graft as “regional bonuses for quantity purchases,” the recipient might be aware that it doesn’t pass the smell test, but do you really think that they go to the principals and call it a kickback?

    This is not to excuse the behavior, but so few teachers or administrators have business experience and in fact are mostly naive about running a business that if they come into a situation where the operations are clearly dysfunctional, as in the textbook switcheroos, but other admins tell them that this is how it is and they wish it were different, but…

    Let’s face it. Public school teachers and admin are underpaid compared to how the job should be valued (if I ruled the world), that a “bonus” of a few thousand a year hardly creates a likely Serpico to clean things up.

    The size of the DPS is another problem, to the point of citizen participation. When Detroit had a population of well over a million–and when this missal location of supplies was already a problem–there were regional superintendents as well as sub-regional or district superintendents, as well as the local school principal on the lowest end and the DPS board and the DPS Superintendent. As the city shrank, most of the bureaucratic layers remained; local communities effectively had little remedy except to petition redress at the city level, where the problem would get committed to death and then a watered down solution would be passed down from city to region to local. By then, any hope for improvement was dead. The state and EM are even more removed from the real problem, and their task–as they see it–isn’t to start with ensuring a good public education for each student and building from there on up, it is to make the district fiscally solvent with what monies they do have and cut away until they have a theoretically solvent district that can only produce excellent students by accident, not design. That is, no matter how dismal the situation at any school, there will be a few students who can thrive despite the obstacles, not because of them.

    To tie these three threads together: the amounts the principles took is negligible in view of the more gross misspending and mismanagement designed into this top-down DPS. A district that is directly responsible to the 25,000 to 100,000 citizen/residents of that district would yield a more locally sensitive administration. The 10 or so districts might be managed by an overall appointed superintendent for compliance issues, but not to impose top down ukase that invite corruption. The city or state run district is not viable as its design was meant to reflect the once 5th largest city in the country, and it was rife with corruption then. Fewer people minded, because the city was relatively flush and things still got done. But now, as the tax base has crumbled and corporations and the state have collectively washed their hands of Detroit, preferring to blame the problems on those left behind, the entropy is visible, and the corruption is no longer viable.

    I don’t think it is right for the principals to have taken kickbacks, but I think there are far different stories to explain tha $4000 and $12000 amounts compared to the enforcer (I assume) who scammed hundreds of thousands.

    I refuse to blame the students or remaining citizens of Detroit for a problem that wasn’t their creation. I would rather advocate for them to receive funding based on what will provide a good solid education for the children. Let’s start there.

  29. Donald Wilson7
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    What is it about Ypsi/willowrun that we keep attracting and hiring these people?!

    So far from the first time.

  30. Concerned Citizen
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I wonder if Tanya Bowman is still getting a paycheck from YCS as she is out on administrative leave….that doesn’t seem right if she is….

  31. Parent Out Here
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    @Donald Wilson

    Exactly! I’m a former Willow Run parent and that whole Doris Hope-Jackson fiasco still baffles me. I admit I stopped keeping up with the news about the schools when my family left the district for a period.

    I do think our current superintendent knows what he is doing and I trust his vision for our district. It’s doubtful he would knowingly hire someone with a sketchy background. I would still like him to be transparent about this situation though and look into our finances. The old blog post from Mark that I read yesterday concerning the troubling things at the high school and the old Ypsi district were very troubling.

  32. Concerned Citizen
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I don’t think the current leadership regime has the best interest of kids at heart.

  33. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t think it is reasonable to expect anyone to discover that a job candidate has taken secret kickbacks from a vendor. A person doesn’t usually list the illegal stuff that have done (for which they have not been caught yet) on their resume.

  34. YCS Parent
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Exactly! It’s not listed on their resume so you do a background check and perhaps check references. Clearly Ms. Bowman’s background wasn’t squeaky clean. Hey WR ignored the fact that D.Hope- Jackson had been terminated from at least one school district previously for “shady dealings”. They hired her anyway and look what it got them. Someone didn’t do their due diligence and now we all have to watch and wait for the outcome. Ben may have the best interest of the “students” at heart but he slipped on this one. Though he is a bit inexperienced as a Superintendent isn’t he?

  35. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Ok. My fault.

  36. Parent Out Here
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    If only we could hire Mark as an investigate reporter. MLive doesn’t seem to be asking any hard questions or looking further into the story.

  37. Lashawn
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Wow this crazy she was my assistant principal in high school

  38. Jeannette
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I believe that our superintendent handled this situation appropriately and there is absolutely no way we should blame him for her crimes. I’ve seen so many other positive things come out of our school since Dr. E has been Nothing less than excellent with his leadership and helpfulness with our children as well as families in crisis situations. I just would like to thank him and tell him to be encouraged because their are many of us that are appreciative and thankful for your hard work in our school district.

  39. Lorna
    Posted April 2, 2016 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    I don’t think its a black eye on YCS. I blame the FBI they had some inkling the woman was incolved in shaddy dealings. Why wouldn’t they inform the district that she was under investigation? How is Ben Edmondson suppose to know that information? It’s not on her resume nor was it public knowledge.

  40. Burton K
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    @Lorna and @YCS Parent

    Ms. Blackman’s background was squeaky clean, in the sense of passing 99% of the background investigations utilized by public and private sector employers. The only background investigations I know that involve more intense scrutiny are for public safety positions, i.e., police and fire. If Ms. Blackman had never been convicted of a crime against children, or any other statutory requirements that would disqualify her for appointment, had a solid credit rating, good references from past employers (and most employers, barring their having fired the employee, would not want to get into a potential litigation situation by giving an employee a bad reference), passed the fingerprinting for criminal clearance, and did well in the interview, then bingo, she is going to get hired.

    The YPS Superintendent DID the correct thing by putting her on administrative leave. Ms. Bowman has only been charged, not found guilty. Second, it was an allegation involving a past, not current employer, and finally (which would concern me if I was a parent with a child at YPS) did not involve immoral actions with a child.

  41. Susan Radzilowski
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Is she paid or unpaid while on leave?

  42. Alan Goldsmith
    Posted September 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2016/09/08/ex-dps-principals-face-sentencing-scheme/89991926/

    Congrats to the former Ypsilanti principal on her upcoming vacation.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] have to pay some $2 million a year toward our debt, and just how much it’s set us back that Ypsi High’s new principal was just recently sentenced in a Detroit corruption probe, stemming from kickbacks she’d accepted before taking the job here. Despite all of this, […]

  2. […] to pay some $2 million every year toward our debt, and just how much it’s set us back that Ypsi High’s new principal was just recently sentenced in a Detroit corruption probe, stemming from kickbacks she’d accepted before taking the job here. Despite all of this, […]

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