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Shelby County Schools’ Early Childhood Programs director under investigation

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A woman in charge of thousands of Shelby County students is off the job pending an investigation, all while trying to land another job in a school district hundreds of miles away.

WREG found out DeAnna McClendon, the director of Early Childhood Programs at Shelby County Schools, received a letter on April 4, 2019.

The district stated it would still pay her more than $120,000 salary while it got an external law firm to investigate.

As of Monday, McClendon remains on paid leave, but it's unclear why she's under investigation.

SCS district officials denied our requests for interviews and refused to give any details.

Instead, they sent a statement: "Shelby County Schools does our due diligence to assure all allegations/complaints are thoroughly reviewed or investigated. However, generally we do not provide details during an active investigation."

No details about why the woman in charge of more than 5,000 students, almost 300 classrooms and managing a budget of $50 million hasn't been to work in more than two months.

We tried to ask McClendon about it, but she wasn't home.

That's because WREG found out she was across the state in Monroe County, Tennessee, interviewing for a director of schools position.

On May 29, she told the school board there about her accomplishments within SCS.

"I have been doing that for five years. We built that program from about 10 million to now about 49-50 million," she said as she talked about the early childhood programs.

She never mentioned she's on paid leave.

WREG requested McClendon's files hoping those would shed some light.

Instead, we learned McClendon was also placed on paid leave in May 2017. The district received anonymous letters claiming McClendon mismanaged money, created a hostile work environment, gave her friends a job in her department and hired a woman as a manager with a $94,000 annual salary without advertising the job.

There were also allegations of sending her entire department an email citing a staff member's medical disability.

SCS told us they held an internal audit to strictly look into the misappropriation of funds.

Investigators documented the conversation with McClendon, but the questions were only related to the morale and her management style, not the money.

SCS said in June 2017 that it determined the anonymous letters to be unsubstantiated and allowed McClendon to go back to work.

Also in her file, we learned McClendon was slapped with misdemeanor charges in July 2016 when she got into a wreck while driving an SCS vehicle when she wasn't supposed to. It allegedly caused $20,000 worth of damage. She was also cited because her three kids were in the car not properly buckled in.

SCS gave her a verbal warning.

"I would want to know what's going on for someone who's caring for my children," said parent Cathy Wheatley.

Some parents we spoke to demanded more transparency from the district. Others didn't want to cast judgement too soon.

"There's got to be a level of grace, but there needs to be a certain level of precaution," said parent Chris Hall.

We reached out to school board members for an interview.

Only one responded. Scott McCormick wrote, "I am not aware of this. Generally, personnel issues below the superintendent do not reach the level of the board unless litigation is involved."

"I plan on making this my home," said McClendon in her interview with the Monroe County School Board.

She stressed she's ready to move back to her hometown and take over for the director of schools, who was let go in the spring.

Some parents said it could all be a coincidence or something else.

"I think something weird is going on. I don`t know what," said Wheatley.

WREG tried reached out to McClendon again Monday, but didn't hear back.

We also reached out to the law firm who has conducted investigations in the past, but they told us they couldn't comment.

As soon as we find out more information on the current investigation, we will let you know.

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