Audit reveals questionable spending at Lake Shore schools

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Questionable spending allegations at the Lake Shore school district as administrators got bonuses while teachers take cuts and others lose their jobs.

It all led to an audit and some unexpected results.

Lake Shore schools seemed to a have good plan for bringing in money during the lean years when enrollment was declining. But according to the school board they also had a superintendent making secret deals and decisions on how to spend that money.

A show of red shirted solidarity inside a school board meeting in St. Clair Shores as they learn the results of a two-year audit.

"I'm so angry and I'm trying to find the words," said Debra Sheets, the mother of a graduate. "I'm glad we found out where some of this money went, but I'm furious for the kids."

Teachers forced to take pay cuts more than a dozen teachers lost their job in a two year span.

"(This happened) while we were all taking cut after cut losing homes, losing cars," said one teacher at the meeting.

During that same time frame the district seemed flush with cash, thanks to a partnership with China.

"We collect $11,811 per student in private tuition per year - 100 students, $1.2 million annually," said Dr. Joe DiPonio, the Lake Shore superintendent.

Each year over 100 students from China come to Lake Shore public schools to learn. Most stay at an old school converted into a dorm, but according to that audit, six students stayed in a house owned by a teacher also from China.

"The property is said to house chaperones and other adults connected to the China students, we offer no opinion as to the legitimacy of these representations," said Craig Lang, the district's attorney.

In other words the school board didn't know about it and say this man, recently retired superintendent Dr. Chris Loria, went rogue for better or worse making financial decisions for the district.

"You have a responsibility to question and dig deeper," said Joshua Densler, a school alum.

In another instance the former superintendent authorized bonuses to three administrative staff members totaling $75,000.

This action coupled with the money from the china program caught the teachers.

So was this former superintendent breaking the law or just over-stepping?

"There was some concern about that, I don't believe there is any credibility to that," said DiPonio. "I think there are some decisions that were viewed in the best interest of the district but they were outside of board governance and that led to some concern."

This was just a summary of the audit. The full audit will come to light July 1.