Derrick Coleman, one of two finalists for the superintendent’s job in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, oversees a financially and academically challenged district that sure likes to travel.
The River Rouge School District, which has just 1,420 students, spent $180,000 on travel over the past three years, flying to conferences in cities such as Las Vegas, Seattle and Washington D.C. By comparison, local districts in Wyandotte, Ecorse and Taylor spent no money on out-of-state travel.
During a weeklong conference in Las Vegas in July 2013, one of the nine participants purchased coconut tequila, vaginal lubrication and $32 worth of condoms at 1:47 a.m., according to travel receipts obtained by Motor City Muckraker. It’s unclear who purchased the party supplies, but Coleman said it wasn’t him.
The district has sent as many as 11 employees to out-of-state conferences at a time. Records show they’ve used a limo once they reach their destination.
“The rate on the limousine was cheaper because it allowed us all to go at one time, rather than paying for individual cabs,” Coleman told WXYZ, even though employees have used two taxis to travel in groups at some conferences.
Coleman, who was interviewed by the DPS board on Monday, grew up in Detroit and went to Western High School. He briefly served as assistant superintendent of DPS.
Coleman’s challenger is Dr. Nikolai Vitti, who is the superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla., which is the 20th largest school district in the nation.
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Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.