Ousted Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Connie Calloway speaks at a hearing on her fate Thursday. Calloway served just 18 months before being fired. (David Guralnick The Detroit News)
DETROIT -- The ousted superintendent of Detroit Public Schools on Thursday blasted the board that fired her for not allowing her to do her job and suggested board members and district staff thwarted her efforts to root out corruption.
Former Superintendent Connie Calloway contested her termination during a public hearing before the board.
Calloway's attorney, Elbert Hatchett, said she was fired for political reasons.
"The discharge ... was a retaliatory discharge," Hatchett said, adding that more information will come out in court. "And you know what it was in retaliation for. She has been made a scapegoat in as much as this board has lost control of its finances ... and she has been made to pay for that."
The board later voted not to comment on the roughly two-hour hearing; both sides will have seven days to present additional written evidence to support their arguments.
"There were a lot of lies, a lot of untruths," board Vice President Joyce Hayes-Giles said after the hearing.
Calloway said the board gave her no training, no information on goals or priorities, and no details of investigations into millions of dollars in missing money. The board would not agree to a forensic audit of departments, she said, leading her to seek separate funding.
"They are aware they did not give me one single sheet of paper. I had to create everything," she said. Calloway said she spent 70 percent of her time "jumping through hoops with the Board of Education."
Calloway has been on administrative leave from her $280,000-a-year job since her firing in December, capping 18 tumultuous months during which her relationship with the board worsened and the district's fiscal problems continued to mount.
Before Calloway spoke, the board's attorney, Gerald Evelyn, read a letter sent to her that outlined reasons she was fired for "good cause." Calloway, he said, exercised poor judgment and unprofessional behavior, failed to follow board directives and failed to develop a school improvement plan and five- and 10-year master plans for the district.
More than 100 people gathered for the meeting, including a camera crew from "Dan Rather Reports."
Calloway's attorney gave a critical assessment of the reasons for which he said his client was unfairly ousted: She recounted an FBI probe into millions of dollars in missing money and she said she was particularly concerned about funding of a questionable, and exorbitantly priced, enrollment campaign.
Audience members at some points gasped at her comments and cheered her on, prompting the board president to call for silence.
Calloway said documents on an investigation into the enrollment campaign were stolen from her locked office. She also accused former board member Jimmy Womack and current members Marie Thornton and Annie Carter of thwarting her attempts to find the truth in some investigations or profiting from the district in their positions on the board.
That led Carter at one point to ask, "Can I sue her for slander?"
The board has 30 days to decide Calloway's fate. The board is expected at its next regular meeting to take another vote on her termination. If they affirm the decision to terminate her, her pay would be severed.
If Calloway's termination stands, she can appeal the decision in court within 160 days.