One of the remaining candidates for Monroe County’s director of schools position is under investigation at her current school district.

According to WREG-Memphis, DeAnna McClendon, the director of Early Childhood Programs at Shelby County Schools, is on paid leave pending an investigation. The news station said McClendon received a letter on April 4, but it is unclear why she is under investigation.

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

WREG-Memphis said officials with Shelby County Schools denied the station’s requests for interviews and did not provide any details on the investigation.

McClendon is in charge of approximately 5,600 students, almost 300 classrooms and managing a budget of just over $50 million in her role as director of Early Childhood Programs.

During her interview for the Monroe County director of schools position on May 29, McClendon never mentioned that she is on paid leave from her current job. McClendon is one of five candidates who were interviewed to replace outgoing Director of Schools Tim Blankenship, whose contract with the system expires on June 30.

McClendon, a Madisonville native, obtained her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Lane College in Jackson in 1994. She continued her education at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) to obtain her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 1995. In 2005, she also completed her master’s degree in administration and supervision at Freed-Hardeman University. She obtained her Educational Specialist degree in leadership and professional practice from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2007.

She began her career in education in the Metropolitan-Nashville Public School System, where she taught from 1995-2000. Following her time there, she started working as a reading/social studies teacher in the Shelby County School System in Memphis, working her way up the system in a variety of roles until landing in her current position in 2011.

Even though McClendon moved to Middle Tennessee, and then West Tennessee, for work, her parents still remained in Monroe County.

“Being from Monroe County and a student from Monroe County, even if I’m not selected for this particular position, I want to do anything I can do to help,” McClendon told the Monroe County Board of Education during her interview on May 29. “I have buy-in to the students and families in Monroe County because I’m a Monroe Countian. In five or six years, regardless, I plan on making this my home.”

WREG-Memphis requested McClendon’s files after learning of the investigation, finding that McClendon was also placed on paid leave in May 2017 after the Shelby County school district received anonymous letters claiming she was mismanaging money and creating a hostile work environment. The letters also alleged that McClendon 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. In addition, there were also allegations of McClendon sending her entire department an email citing a staff member’s medical disability.

Shelby County Schools told WREG-Memphis that they held an internal audit to look into the misappropriation of funds, but in June 2017, it determined the anonymous letters to be unsubstantiated and allowed McClendon to return to work.

Also in McClendon’s file, WREG-Memphis learned that she faced misdemeanor charges in July 2016 after she got into an accident while driving a Shelby County Schools’ vehicle when she allegedly was not supposed to. The wreck allegedly resulted in $20,000 worth of damage. McClendon was also cited because her children were in the car not properly buckled in. The school district gave her a verbal warning for that incident.

WREG-Memphis said McClendon could not be reached for comments.

This is a developing story. The Advocate & Democrat will continue to report on the director of schools search as the process forges ahead.

The Monroe County Board of Education will meet in a called meeting at 5 p.m. this Thursday, June 13, in the boardroom at Central Office to narrow the field of remaining candidates down from five to three. Along with McClendon, Russell Harris, Phillip Swanson, Robert Hooper, and Joe Miller also interviewed for the job.

Following the called meeting on Thursday, the School Board will meet in their regular monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m.

The public can meet the top three candidates and ask them questions during a Community Meeting at Sequoyah High School on Monday, June 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. If community members wish to ask questions, they have to be submitted to School Board Attorney Doris Matthews at the event for approval. Candidates will be given five minutes to introduce themselves to the public, followed by a question-and-answer session.

As of right now, the Board of Education plans to select the new director of schools on Thursday, June 20 in a special called meeting at 6 p.m.

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