On March 16, ELi broke the news of East Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Dori Leyko’s announcement that former ELHS principal Shannon Mayfield had resigned following discovery he had provided “fraudulent” evidence of a doctorate degree.
In the weeks leading up to this announcement, ELi had received reader tips related to the story. As a consequence, on March 8, ELi had used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request a copy of the resume Mayfield submitted when he applied along with “any documents showing evidence of fact-checking of Mr. Mayfield’s resume in conjunction with the search process for hiring the new principal that led to his hire.”
After ELi reminded ELPS last week that we were owed the material, the district provided a response on April 6.
The response contains three pages showing fact-checking notes by only one individual: Superintendent Dori Leyko. (See it here. Note that Leyko says the redactions are of phone numbers.)
It shows Leyko listed seven individuals for reference checks. It does not provide evidence of any checking of other aspects of the application.
Of the seven individuals listed for reference checks, Leyko has notes for only three. She told ELi she personally talked to four of the seven (but she doesn’t have notes in one case), a colleague spoke to one more, and two were not reached.
What the application and Leyko’s notes show about Mayfield’s job immediately prior to his ELPS appointment:
Mayfield said on his application for the ELHS principal position that he had worked at Sacramento Public Schools as a principal from June 2021 through June 2022. In April 2022, he applied for the job as ELHS principal. The reason he gave for leaving the Sacramento job on his application to ELPS was that the Sacramento job was a “1 year turnaround position as agreed.”
Leyko’s notes indicate she reached Kimberly Mackey, Instructional Superintendent of the Sacramento Public Schools. The notes say Mackey described Mayfield as a “seasoned-amazing community person” with “affinity and ability to bring groups together.”
Leyko’s notes do not show her asking for any confirmation from Mackey that Mayfield’s Sacramento job was supposed to be only for one year.
What the application and Leyko’s notes show about Mayfield’s jobs before Sacrmento:
According to Mayfield’s application to ELPS, immediately before moving to Sacramento, he worked as a principal for Allentown School District in Pennsylvania from May 2012 through June 2021. His application said he left the Allentown job to take the “one-year turnaround position” in Sacramento.
Leyko’s notes show a plan to talk to the deputy superintendent of Allentown, Jen Ramos. Leyko says she did talk to Ramos, but that “reference was checked by me via phone while I was driving so I do not have notes.” (Leyko explained the notes under her line for Ramos’s contact information – on the third page of the material received under FOIA – consist of notes Leyko took when talking to the ELPS district’s attorney about her own job.)
Leyko’s notes show she also reached Kenny Fritz, who was the interim principal for a high school in Allentown, and that Fritz said Mayfield “connects to all staff, students, parents” and that he was a “great leader during crazy [COVID] times.”
Leyko’s notes also show she reached Thomas Parker, the former Allentown superintendent, now working at the Mott Foundation. Parker apparently described Mayfield as a “strong culture building [who] gets people excited and focused on moving forward.”
Going back chronologically, Mayfield’s application to ELPS shows that, from June 2016 through June 2018, he worked as a mathematics instructor for the McMann School of Business and Technology, a vocational school offering associate degrees in Allentown.
But this period of employment at McMann (June 2016-June 2018) overlaps with when Mayfield’s ELPS job application said he worked as a high school principal for Allendale Public Schools (May 2012-June 2021). His application also says he left the McCann job to become the principal for the Allentown School District.
Leyko’s notes don’t show an attempt to contact someone at the McCann School or to clarify this timeline.
Mayfield’s application also said he worked as dean of students at Old Redford Academy Preparatory High School in Detroit from 2015-2016. Again, this would have overlapped with when Mayfield indicated he worked as a principal for the Allendale School District (2012 to 2021). Leyko’s notes show she intended to contact Michael Carrauthers, director of student data at Old Redford Academy.
Mayfield’s application also shows he claimed to have worked as “turnaround principal” for Overbrook High School in Philadelphia from 2013-2015 – another overlap with when he said he was working in Allentown. Leyko’s notes show no attempt to verify this.
Leyko’s notes show an intention to reach out to Fred Proctor at the Milliken School in Sherman Oaks, California, who Mayfield listed as a “former supervisor” on his application, although it isn’t clear in which job he supervised Mayfield. Leyko told ELi that this reference “was checked by a colleague who knew that individual [Proctor] and reported back to me by phone.” She has no notes on this.
Leyko’s notes also indicate she intended to contact Thomas Maridada of Bright New Ohio, whom Mayfield listed as a “former hiring superintendent.” As with Proctor, it isn’t clear through which job Mayfield knew this individual. Leyko did not reach him.
Mayfield’s employment appears to have changed frequently.
As noted above, Mayfield said on the second page of his application that he worked for the Allentown School District as a principal from 2012-2021. But in another, subsidiary section of Mayfield’s application – a part reproducing his resume – he indicated his work for the Allentown School District did not run continuously from 2012-2021. That later section says he worked for Allentown SD from 2012-2013 and then again from 2018-2021.
This seems to explain the apparent overlaps of employment described below.
But it also suggests a high number of job changes from 2012 through 2022: Allentown public schools from 2012-2013; Philadelphia from 2013-2015; Detroit from 2015-2016; McCann School in Allentown from 2016-2018; back to Allentown public schools from 2018-2021; Sacramento from 2021-2022; and East Lansing from 2022-2023.
That’s seven jobs in 11 academic years.
Leyko defended the vetting of Mayfield on March 16, just after her announcement about the fraudulent material. At that time, Leyko said the background check “was a fingerprint-based background check completed by the Michigan State Police Department.”
She also said the state had verified the degrees Mayfield said he had already earned.
And, Leyko said on March 16, “Reference checks were completed with individuals Mr. Mayfield listed as references, along with additional individuals we contacted who were not listed in his resume or application.”
Leyko told ELi today she “felt confident after connecting with five references.” As noted above, under FOIA, Leyko was only able to show records from three of those five.
When her assistant returned the FOIA response on April 6, Leyko sent with it an unsolicited comment on the material.
“While there is not documentation of this fact-checking,” Leyko wrote, “I (along with other committee members) searched and reviewed information on the Internet. When he was in town for a second-round interview, Assistant Superintendent [Glenn] Mitcham and I met Mr. Mayfield outside of the committee for 3+ hours for dinner and additional conversation around his experience. In addition to the documented reference check notes, another one was completed by a trusted colleague who had a relationship with one of Mr. Mayfield’s references (who then verbally communicated back with me).”
Leyko also reiterated in the unsolicited comment that the degrees Mayfield claimed to have already had – a bachelor’s and master’s degree with University of Detroit Mercy – were verified by the Michigan Department of Education.
The alleged Ph.D. degree in “ethical leadership” from Wayne State University, the transcript for which Wayne State has said is fake, was claimed by Mayfield to be in progress (“expected 2023”) on his application to ELPS.
It was only when, earlier this year, Mayfield claimed this degree that ELPS went to verify the Ph.D. completion and found it did not check out.
The Lansing State Journal reported on March 17 that Mayfield “said he resigned because of injuries sustained breaking up a fight after a basketball game in January and a subsequent heart attack in February.” According to that report, “Mayfield did not directly address the allegations that he lied on his resume and fabricated transcripts.”