While receiving national praise for its academic successes, the Inglewood Unified School District is attracting harsher local scrutiny for aspects of its administration -- including an inaccuracy in the resume of its board president and salary overpayments to top managers.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office recently began examining the credentials of Inglewood's elected school board president, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.
In interviews last week, the president, Cresia Green-Davis, acknowledged that her resume includes a master's degree from the University of Michigan that she did not earn. Green-Davis said she did not know how the degree had been included. She had the resume removed from the district Web site Friday.
Also last week, senior Inglewood administrators were defending themselves against the findings of an outside accounting firm hired by the school district to examine payroll and personnel records.
In an audit completed late last year and obtained by The Times, the accounting firm of Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates found that top officials had received salary increases and bonus payments without the approval of the school board. "The control environment
Management of the district is a subject of political dispute in Inglewood. But all sides argue that the fiscal and management oversight is weak.
In addition to the payroll audit, the district has hired the state's Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team to examine all of the district's business practices.
"We know there are holes in our systems," said Eveline Ross, a board member who wants the district to hire a controller. "We know that procedures have broken down."
Community leaders say they hope the reputation of Inglewood's 17,887-student district will not be harmed. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige visited Claude Hudnall Elementary School to praise its test scores.
Though three-quarters of the district's elementary students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because of their families' low incomes, 11 of the 13 elementary schools score higher than the state average on standardized academic tests. Middle and high school scores have not kept pace.
Just days before Paige's visit, a citizens group, the Inglewood Leadership Council, circulated a letter raising concerns that a lack of management control could lead to the district's being placed in state receivership. The letter also called for the resignation of Green-Davis.
Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn is among the strongest critics of the board. "I'm disappointed in the school board, especially the president," Dorn said recently. Green-Davis and her allies have opposed the mayor politically.
In interviews last week, Green-Davis, 50, who was elected to the school board two years ago, described what she called her unlikely rise.
Originally from Michigan, Green-Davis has held a host of jobs, from office clerk for Caltrans community relations coordinator to teacher in Mississippi, Compton and Centinela Valley. She said she made missteps along the way.
During college, she said, she was arrested for stealing from a bookstore. She said she nonetheless earned a degree in social studies from Eastern Michigan University in 1976, though school records say she attended school for four years but didn't graduate. Green-Davis insisted those records are incomplete and pledged to provide a fuller explanation of her education.
Green-Davis also said she had battled financial problems that cost her a home and forced her to file for bankruptcy three times. And in 1995, she said, she was convicted of misdemeanor theft in Los Angeles Municipal Court for shoplifting at a department store.
She was sentenced to two years' probation and 200 hours of community service, court records show. At that time, she was going through a divorce and went on welfare to support her twin sons, she said.
"I've done my time -- I'm not trying to play like some holier-than-thou person," she said. "People have done worse things than me. We all make mistakes."
Another mistake Green-Davis said she made was including the University of Michigan degree in materials for her successful campaign for school board in 2001.
She said she did not remember who included the degree in those materials and the district's official biography of the board president, she said.
"There's no excuse. I was wrong," she said.
She said that political opponents and an ex-husband had sparked the district attorney's investigation of her.
She said she had not been questioned but welcomed the probe. "They'll find me clean," she said.
The district attorney's office declined to comment.
Over the last two years, Green-Davis has repeatedly urged more audits of district finances.
The payroll audit by Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates stems from changes the board made to the titles of several administrators in early 2001.