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Posted on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Former Ypsilanti High School principal says he was targeted for looking into district's spending

By Danielle Arndt


The former Ypsilanti High School principal, who resigned in December after two months on administrative leave, says he was placed on leave after questioning various aspects of the district's spending. file photo

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A former Ypsilanti Public Schools principal says he was placed on administrative leave after questioning the district’s use of grant money and spending inequities at Ypsilanti’s two high schools.

High school Principal Rob Belous was placed on paid administrative leave in October to give the district time to investigate various ongoing concerns regarding his performance.

Belous is no longer employed by the district. He signed a separation agreement in mid-December and agreed to resign from his position, effective Dec. 31, after two months on administrative leave.

The agreement, obtained by, states Superintendent Dedrick Martin approached Belous “regarding his interest in separating his employment for economic reasons in light of the economic crises facing the district.”

“I just wanted it to be over, to put Ypsilanti behind me and to move on with my career,” Belous said in a phone interview Thursday.


Rob Belous

From Facebook

Belous received a lump sum of $10,000 per the agreement. He also agreed not to apply for re-employment within the district or to sue the district for any reason.

Executive Director of Human Resources Sharon Irvine sent the Oct. 2 letter placing Belous on leave. obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The letter states Belous was presented with the district’s concerns at a meeting of which the date was not mentioned. The letter also says Ypsilanti Public Schools would be investigating the claims.

The concerns against Belous were listed as:

  • Soliciting, distributing and using nonpublic juvenile information to discriminate against students in enrollment practices;
  • Dishonesty in assigning responsibility for an instance of inappropriate enrollment practices
  • Creating a material disruption to school culture and climate;
  • Failure to maintain a safe environment;
  • Failure to adequately handle administrative duties;
  • Recurring inappropriate speech to students and staff;
  • And general unprofessionalism in conversations with students and staff.

But Belous says the concerns are bogus and his leave had more to do with his personal investigation into the district’s spending of federal grant money and questions regarding inequitable expenditures at Ypsilanti New Tech and Ypsilanti High School.

Belous said the first red flag came in March 2012, when he was approached by Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Martin to sign off on a number of grant expenditures for his building.

“I thought it strange that we never got an actual audit report … and that grants were done this way,” he said.

Belous was hired prior to the start of the 2011-12 academic year to lead YHS through a redesign and various other reforms. The high school was required to undergo a redesign after appearing on the state’s persistently lowest achieving schools list.

Belous began noticing “gross inequities” in how much money was dedicated to YHS per student compared with Ypsilanti New Tech per student, he said. Both schools serve students in grades 9-12, yet New Tech receives more resources from the district, Belous said.

Ypsilanti New Tech High School opened its doors in fall 2010 and follows a national model of project-based learning with an emphasis on technology.

Belous brought up the subject of spending inequities numerous times to Irvine, Jennifer Martin and Dedrick Martin, he said.

In September 2012, Belous noticed several expenditures in a grant summary that did not occur, he says. Belous claims he was told by more than one district administrator in September to stop talking about the district’s spending “if he cared about his career.”

Belous filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education regarding the district’s spending of Title 1, Title 2 and Title 31A grant dollars. Title 1 and Title 31A funding is provided primarily to help school districts supplement instruction and support services for at-risk and low-income or economically disadvantaged students. Title 2 provides funds for staff professional development to improve instructional quality.

A representative with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General confirmed in email Thursday a complaint against Ypsilanti schools was filed. No information about the investigation could be immediately released.

“We received a complaint about the district, looked into it, and then closed the matter,” said Public Affairs Liaison Catherine Grant.


Sharon Irvine

From LinkedIn

Irvine denied district officials had prior knowledge of Belous’ questioning of Ypsilanti’s spending habits.

“We didn’t know anything about that until after the fact,” she said. “… And frankly, we know (Belous) made a complaint, and the MDE (Michigan Department of Education) did come down and found no issues with what was reported. If he’s alluding to a timing matter, it’s immaterial and had no bearing on the concerns that were made about him.”

Typically when a school employee is placed on administrative leave for an impending investigation, there is due process and the results of the investigation are presented to the employee and the employee has an opportunity to refute any findings, Irvine explained.

She said YPS officials had completed their investigation into the concerns brought against Belous. However, the separation agreement occurred before a final investigation meeting with Belous could be scheduled, she said.

Irvine declined to comment on the results of the investigation, stating because a final meeting with Belous never took place, the district cannot say for certain its findings would have “survived.”

Emails obtained by revealed that, as part of the October investigation, Irvine looked into a report of possible alcohol use at the Senior Honors Night in May. Emails also showed the district investigated possible inappropriate speech and behaviors at the 2012 graduation ceremony and fall homecoming festivities.

Irvine said while she could not speak specifically to the details, the district found no merit to any of the above claims.

David Bates.JPG

David Bates

“None of it came forward as anything material,” she said. “There was no evidence of any kind of alcohol use.”

School board President David Bates, who attended both the Senior Honors Night and the commencement ceremony, said he did not notice any unusual or inappropriate behavior on Belous’ part either of those evenings. Bates said Belous took over the high school during a very challenging time.

“I appreciated the positive things Mr. Belous brought to the high school and that he was able to contribute to the transition that took place there,” Bates said. “I was sorry it didn’t work out in the long run but wish him well with his future endeavors.”

Although Belous no longer is employed with the district, he recently took to blogging about Ypsilanti’s federal grant spending and the Ypsilanti-Willow Run merger in a post published on his blog: A Principals Perspective. In the post, he gives his opinion on why troubled districts continue to decline, using his experience with Ypsilanti (District A in the post) as an example.

He wrote that district administrators, their assistants and other designated personnel attend multiple-day trainings and conferences in “resort areas,” while Ypsilanti’s schools lack enough textbooks for every student.

“Our students deserve the highest quality education possible, from expert teachers who are skilled in cutting edge pedagogy,” Belous wrote on Jan. 21, less than a month after his employment with the district ended. “We need to fund our schools properly, and use those funds to enhance the education of our children. I strongly encourage the one or two of you who may read this to request a copy of the districts’ Consolidated Grant Application and Expenditure reports, specifically for Title 1, Title 2, Title 3 and 31A, review them closely and then ask questions at a board meeting. Hold your school leadership accountable for the results they are getting with your children. We can’t expect the State Department of Education to hold school leaders accountable, they do not have the financial or human capital necessary, it is our responsibility.”

Limited information obtained by so far shows the district incurred travel expenses in 2011-12 for teachers and administrators to attend conferences in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

Ok so reading this again. Belous claims the alleged complaints against him were retaliatory for bringing forth inequities in district expenditures and questionable use of grant funds. Belous as published in the paper and recognized by board president Bates was making positive changes at YHS. Belous writes a blog in Aug which appears to compare YHS to YNT then is placed on leave for pretty vague concerns as reported in this article. Irvine states the timing is immaterial! That is ignorant. This is a case of violation of the Whistleblower Act, timing is critical. The actions of Irvine, Martin and Martin are very questionable and need to be investigated further. Where did the grant money go?


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

Ypsilanti High had a really good principal and the superintendent ran him away canceling his contract, on the premise that the district didn't want contract employees. Jon Brown was committed to improving the school and the students were doing better and the high school was moving forward. Then his contract was canceled and since that time, Ypsilanti has had 4 principals if you include the "friend" of the superintendent that was hired and quit after a month, during the summer no less. The district changed curriculum for the high school but when a question was posed to Ms. Martin, I'm still awaiting her response. The school does block scheduling where students take 8 classes each semester but they don't have enough teachers to offer enough electives for ANY student to have elective class options to fill that much time beyond their sophomore year. I emailed Ms. Martin as the asst superintendent on what the options would be for my freshman and she NEVER responded so I pulled my child. Unfortunately, contacting the school board went nowhere as they typically defer back to the very people they are supposed to provide oversight for. The board has been way too trusting of the people they hire and the children are paying the price. A school district in financial peril but took money to renovate and expand the administrative building. A school district in financial peril and they reopen and remodel an old elementary school to be a new high school while the main high school has entire wings that go unused because there aren't enough students and teachers to use all the class rooms. Why not save money on utilities and have New Tech as a wing in the main high school?


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 4:08 a.m.

Take some time to read his blog. Look through the district's expenditures. Belous is correct. He was basically fired for being a whistleblower. I can also say as someone connected with kids in his former district, he was the ONLY one who ever returned phone calls or emails. Ypsilanti's public rules are not followed. Keep it quiet. Stay stupid. Mr. Belous, if you want to reach me, reply and it will happen. I support you!

tom swift jr.

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

Danielle, Did Belous state to you that when he referred to District A in his blog he was specifically speaking about Ypsilanti? The blog post doesn't say that specifically.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 9:20 p.m.

Not to state the obvious here but if he was guilty of what Irvine claims why was his contract renewed? Why wasn't he dismissed? Timing is irrelevant? Seems like the issues with Belous came up after he questioned the Whitehouse. I work in the district and he was well respected, liked and making changes for the best of the school and kids. We all know what is really happening at YPSD and has been since the Martins arrived, just a shame the guilt seems to fall on others time and time again.God forbid any of the Whitehouse staff are hired by our new district. Or anywhere else for that matter.

tom swift jr.

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

No, they are not related.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

Are the Martins a married couple? If so, who was hired first?

Ryan Schlehuber

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Perhaps there is truth to what each party says, but if it is true that the school is struggling to afford educational materials yet staff is attending these conferences out-of-state (Vegas and Orlando? Come on...) then shame on the school. Sounds like priorities are messed up.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

I guess it doesn't pay to be a whistle blower in Ypsilanti?

Basic Bob

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

He was paid to go away, but not as well as Doris Hope-Jackson.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3 p.m.

Great coverage, Danielle! It sounds like Belous asked too many questions about matters above his paygrade.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

And now....Ypsi has joined Willow Run to form an even larger district. Along with the size of the public entity comes the "opportunity" to hide things under layers of bureaucracy. It's too bad this article didn't appear before the consolidation vote.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Spending irregularities in a school district that is 12 million in the hole? Administrative indulgence and the possibility of a cover up bring hinted at by a whistle blower? Oh My! The train wreck that Ypsilanti Schools has become goes back many years and begins with a do nothing school board that enabled inept administration to become the norm, not the exception.The years of doube dipping administrators and spending that they didn't have has wreaked devastation on the students, teachers and the community they work hard for everyday. These people of our near past need to stand trial for their misdeeds as they have placed families in jeopardy while they have rode off into their retired sunsets. How these people live with themselves is beyond me. Not enough board oversight and too much cronyism.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

What do the first two items even mean?

A A Resident

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

"Soliciting, distributing and using nonpublic juvenile information to discriminate against students in enrollment practices;" That could mean that he gathered and used statistics or evidence which others found embarrassing, or wanted kept secret. "Dishonesty in assigning responsibility for an instance of inappropriate enrollment practices." That could mean someone he exposed as responsible wasn't happy about it. In the absence of supporting facts, the allegations against Belous sound awfully shady.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

Exactly.... I think Belous has a point.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

"He wrote that district administrators, their assistants and other designated personnel attend multiple-day trainings and conferences in "resort areas,"" If anything like that happened AT a school district that's already financially beleaguered....then there needs to be SOME kind of an investigation. That is abuse of public funds...TAX DOLLARS folks...that's your money and MY money.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

I certainly do not know enough about any particulars of this district, but I think it can safely be stated that many people who run conferences intentionally schedule them in 'resort' areas to make them more desirable. Without knowing how critical the nature of the conference was; how many options there were for choosing an alternate location; how many people attended; and whether or not the reimbursement was at 100% or maybe 50%; I can't jump on this particular bandwagon yet. If the school is doing badly, there has to be some kind of additional training. Having said that, it appears that there is some fuzziness in the dismissal of the former principal.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Do you really think that voter outrage will change anything?


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

How many principals was that, in how many years? How many of them were such bad hires that they were paid to leave?


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

And yet people keep championing Martin to run the new school district and some of the board members are from the two failed districts. The new school needs a complete break from the past. Problem is, no one in power wants that.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

Everybody knows the main job a principle is to not make the district look bad. Exposing mismanagement = the bum's rush into a back alley horse trough.

A A Resident

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

"The concerns against Belous were listed as: Soliciting, distributing and using nonpublic juvenile information to discriminate against students in enrollment practices; Dishonesty in assigning responsibility for an instance of inappropriate enrollment practices Creating a material disruption to school culture and climate; Failure to maintain a safe environment; Failure to adequately handle administrative duties; Recurring inappropriate speech to students and staff; And general unprofessionalism in conversations with students and staff." Wow, that's nebulous enough that it could be hung on anybody who does or says something you don't like. It could also be a description of a whistle-blower, or one who champions change.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

If he was doing all of that, it would seem that he should have been fired ASAP and no money paid to him. Instead, they spent a couple months looking into it while he was still on the payroll and paid him 10k to keep his mouth shut. It all seems rather fishy.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

@CI: I'll bet the specific charges do actually exist, and that the generalizations are for the "newspaper."

Chase Ingersoll

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Y-Town: A fundamental condition of civil and administrative due process is that a "charge" as above must specifically state the law or rule that is in effect and then specifically state the "particular" facts of the allegation, not just a general allegation that the person broke a particular rule. That the above does not do that, is a classic indication of a retaliatory response against a whistle blower.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:02 p.m.

That doesn't sound nebulous at all.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 11:26 a.m.

If the superintendent position isn't filled yet, I think we have found the guy for the job. Imagine an administrator who isn't willing to "toe the company line"....and how that could benefit taxpayers.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 7:32 a.m.

How about instead of "how it could benefit taxpayers," we think instead, of how it could benefit STUDENTS?????


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

*This* is precisely why the district needs to look elsewhere for its next superintendent.