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Rubin: A much-deserved plummet for conniving Norman Shy

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

The landscapers were fussy at the home of Norman Shy, who cheated schoolchildren.

Perfect rows of 18-inch-tall boxwoods shelter perfect rows of purple pansies along an immaculate pale brick pathway in front of his site condo in Franklin, which he purchased two years ago for $1,125,000.

Norman Shy downsized to this $1,125,000 site condo in Franklin two years ago. It’s measured at 3,560 square feet, plus 2,500 more in a walk-out basement.

The four-bedroom, five-bath home of Norman Shy, who cheated schoolchildren, is flanked by large urns that sit on pedestals and hold 4-foot-tall spiral topiary. Behind the home, down an incline from the walkout basement, flows the Franklin River.

Behind Hutchinson Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, there is a crumbling two-story house that technically isn’t boarded up anymore because someone kicked in the front door.

Hutchinson sits 25 miles by road from the home of Norman Shy, who cheated schoolchildren. It’s one of the schools the children attend.

Norman Shy, 74, was the planner and paymaster in a $2.7 million bribery and kickback operation. Under his direction, 12 principals and a Detroit Public Schools administrator traded children’s futures for cash and gift cards.

For most of the 14 years that Norman Shy was cheating children who have nothing, he was living in a $2.4 million custom-built mansion much bigger than the home in Franklin. That home, in Farmington Hills, had 11,000 square feet of space, nine bathrooms and an indoor lap pool.

Then he downsized and kept conniving, because greed travels freely across ZIP Code boundaries and shame never gets past the curb.

Students at Hutchinson Elementary-Middle School in Detroit can look across the street to an abandoned wreck marked, “Dare to dream.”

A study in hypocrisy

Stanley Johnson of Southfield was one of the principals who preached integrity to his students while he took $84,107 from Norman Shy to deny them the tools they need to learn.

He oversaw Hutchinson, where two boys played basketball on the asphalt Tuesday but took no shots because there was no pole, backboard or hoop.

He pleaded guilty 16 days ago to a charge of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. What he did between 2009 and 2014 was order school supplies at inflated prices from Norman Shy, who unfailingly cashed the district’s checks but frequently did not bother to deliver the merchandise.

Hutchinson is just north of East Vernor Highway between Garland and St. Clair. Along St. Clair, what’s across from the school takes up less of a footprint than what’s missing.

Fourteen lots have been given over to tall grass, with the houses bulldozed and cleared. Only half a dozen houses are occupied.

Two others, side by side, have inspirational messages for Hutchinson students painted on the plywood boards over the front windows.

“Sky is the limit,” says one. “Think positive,” says another.

“Stay in school,” says a third, even if there are too few supplies and no money to get more because venal adults took it.

Well, the statue has a book

Some of the supplies that never appeared were meant for special education students.

While they struggled to learn, Norman Shy could step out on his porch in Franklin every day and admire a bronze sculpture. The sculpture depicts a young boy, sitting in the crook of a tree and reading a book.

The home has other sculptures in back, including a wolf and a rabbit. It’s on a small circle surrounding a miniature park. It has a replica gas lamp at the foot of the driveway, the kind you turn on at night to keep criminals away.

Norman Shy, 74, of Franklin, who admitted his role in the DPS kickback scheme, leaves U.S. District Court in Detroit on May 11, 2016.

Norman Shy, who cheated schoolchildren, will soon leave it behind.

He pleaded guilty last week to income tax evasion and conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, both five-year felonies. He will be sentenced Sept. 6, with guidelines suggesting a prison term of 70 to 87 months and logic suggesting a minimum security camp.

He will also have to repay the $2,768,846.23 he looted from a struggling school district.

His lawyer says that will be a hardship.

Twenty-five miles from Norman Shy’s front door, they know what real hardship is. Maybe he should move into one of the abandoned houses and experience it for himself.