Alleged ‘misuse’ of public funds, FBI investigation part of Sheffield’s past

Rockford Public School District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield delivers her State of the Schools address Thursday, Dec. 9, at Cliffbreakers. File photo by Jim Hagerty

To view a Jan. 19, 2009, copy of Rockford Public School District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield’s work history, click here.

Editor’s note: In his June 19, 2010, rebuttal letter to Rockford Public School District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield, former Rockford Auburn High School Principal Dr. Patrick Hardy referenced Sheffield’s work history.

In part two of Hardy’s letter, which appeared in the Dec. 8-14 issue, Hardy alleged: “While serving in your administration at the cabinet level I became increasingly uncomfortable and there were several reasons. I will only describe some of them here. First, I approached you and informed you that I was receiving anonymous letters from people encouraging me to leave your administration. These letters included articles about your alleged inappropriate use of funds as high level employee in another district and I gave you one of the letters. You responded by simply stating that you ‘paid the money back and took care of that.’ I was disappointed and uncomfortable with your answer in that you could not affirm that you never misused funds in the first place but only that you paid it back.”

In light of the references to Sheffield’s past made in Hardy’s letter and various rumors that have been circulating, The Rock River Times presents the following overview of Sheffield’s work history. The overview is compiled from a Jan. 19, 2009, copy of Sheffield’s résumé (viewable above) and various news reports. Attempts to reach Sheffield through District 205 Chief Communications Officer Mark Bonne were unsuccessful prior to publication.

By Joe McGehee
Staff Writer

Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield became superintendent of Rockford Public School District 205 in 2009. Before coming to the Rock River Valley, Sheffield worked in the Baton Rouge, La. (2008-2009), Philadelphia (2004-2008) and Detroit (2000-2003) school systems. She has more than 13 years of experience as both an instructor and administrator in the educational field.

Prior to her experience in public schools, Sheffield served as chief of staff and director of the Department of Port Control in Cleveland Mayor Michael White’s administration (1993-2000) and chief administrative officer in New Haven, Conn., Mayor John Daniels’ administration (1992-1993).

Sheffield also served as an adjunct professor at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa. (2006-2008), Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University in Cleveland (1999-2000) and Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn. (1992-1993).

Recovery School District—North, Baton Rouge, La.

According to her résumé, Sheffield worked to turn around the Recovery School District—North in Louisiana as its superintendent from June 2008 through July 2009. Among her significant accomplishments, she listed developing an instructional management system, the development and implementation of a leadership development program, and putting a budget management process in place.

Public School District of Philadelphia

Sheffield served as the chief accountability officer for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) from June 2004 through June 2008. While there, she implemented a uniform accountability system for all schools, established clear accountability measures through the development of a district-wide scorecard, and conducted a comprehensive audit of the district’s curriculum, among her many other accomplishments.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Education performed an audit to determine if SDP had adequate fiscal controls in place to account for federal funds for the period of July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006. The audit performed by the OIG determined that SDP did not have adequate controls in place to account for the federal grant funds that were expended during that period.

The OIG determined that expenditures totaling $138,376,068 from grant funds were either unallowable or inadequately supported. The same audit also concluded that SDP should return $17,678,079 in unallowable costs to the U.S. Department of Education.

Detroit Public Schools

Sheffield was the chief academic officer and chief of staff for Detroit Public Schools from May 2000 through July 2003. According to her résumé, her accomplishments included restructuring operations of the Division of Leadership and Educational Accountability to focus staff and financial resources, which resulted in approximately $75 million reallocated to academic programming.

Sheffield also wrote policy and procedure manuals for the district where none had existed in the past, and led the development of a district school improvement planning process, which resulted in the creation of the Detroit Public School Improvement Plan.

The Colorado Springs Independent reported Jan. 16, 2009, that, “In late November, Detroit’s ABC affiliate WXYZ mounted a series of investigative pieces highlighting numerous cases of abuse, misuse and even theft of public funds. Among the station’s findings, based on the district’s audit reports:

“Last May, [Detroit Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Kenneth] Burnley’s right-hand woman, LaVonne Sheffield, financed her wedding trip to Las Vegas courtesy of Detroit schools taxpayers. Using her district-issued charge card, Sheffield—whose title is, get this, chief of academic accountability—rang up $755 while getting hitched at the Forever Grand wedding chapel at the MGM Grand Hotel. Records also documented other Sheffield expenses, including flower arrangements, $845 worth of merchandise from an airline catalog and $1,200 Founder’s Society membership to the Detroit Institute of Art.”

Mayor’s Office, Cleveland

In December 1993, Sheffield was hired as chief of staff to Cleveland Mayor Michael White and also served as the director of Port Control, which required her to oversee the operations of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Burke Lakefront Airport. Sheffield lists coordinating the day-to-day operation of the city, with more than 9,000 employees and an annual operation budget of $828 million, while also overseeing the finance, legal and utilities departments as her major accomplishments on her résumé.

A July 20, 2005, article titled “City for Sale” in Cleveland Scene detailed an affidavit produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which was loaded with “damning allegations against White, contending there’s ‘probable cause’ to believe the mayor headed an extortion ring, whereby businesses were forced to pay bribes in exchange for city, school and airport contracts.”

The FBI affidavit, which also included confessions of bribery by Cleveland businessmen, noted that, “It appears that two other officials are under federal scrutiny: LaVonne Sheffield, White’s former chief of staff. …”

Sheffield’s résumé lists managing the $1.4 billion Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Expansion Project, which was the first major expansion project in Cleveland in 50 years, among her accomplishments. However, according to the FBI’s affidavit, contracts for both airports were awash in allegations of bribery, as three separate informants admitted paying bribes to win bids for work on the expansion project.

To view Sheffield’s résumé, visit

From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue

One thought on “Alleged ‘misuse’ of public funds, FBI investigation part of Sheffield’s past

  • Dec 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Thanks once again for your diligence as investigative reporters when many reporters prefer to allude to rumors and innuendo!

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