DETROIT: The Detroit Public Schools are being criticized for awarding a former critic a no-bid contract for grassroots outreach work.
The district paid Larry Nelson, owner of American Counselors Consultants and Distributors, $568,000 from February 2004 through this January to distribute school literature at local churches and community gathering spots. The effort was part of a $2 million marketing campaign called "I am DPS."
Nelson in 2003 complained about how the district was using federal funds, leading to a US Department of Education investigation. Nelson had been convicted of extortion in 1975.
The Detroit Free Press editorialized on March 15 that "the waste and poor judgment put into the campaign indicate the troubled district would have done better to keep its mouth shut and its focus on improvement."
Ken Coleman, DPS executive director of community communications, said the district did not hire Nelson to silence his criticism. He also said the work Nelson did was effective in getting parents to attend district meetings. The district is evaluating whether to seek bids to continue the outreach program this year.