FLORISSANT • The superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District has been arrested for matters related to the school system he previously led in North Carolina, according to school officials here.
The Ferguson-Florissant School Board issued a statement Thursday saying it had approved a request by Superintendent Joseph Davis for a paid leave of absence. The statement followed an emergency closed meeting.
“Our hope is that Dr. Davis will return to lead the District, however, we have enlisted Deputy Superintendent Larry Larrew to serve as Acting Superintendent until this matter is resolved,” said Board President Rob Chabot in a school district news release.
According to the indictment, obtained Friday by the Post-Dispatch, Davis used a credit card belonging to the North Carolina school district he once led on Jan. 15 to "obtain" a hotel reservation and a Hertz rental car. The indictment, handed down May 22, says Davis was not an authorized user of the Washington County Board of Education card. Davis now faces two counts of obtaining property by false pretense. No hearing date has been set.
According to local publications and a school district in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Davis was at Central Bucks South High School – which is about 30 miles from Philadelphia – on Jan. 15 to speak at a social justice summit for teens. The indictment stated that Davis used the credit card to make a reservation at Hotel Club Quarters, "a boutique business hotel" with a location in Philadelphia.
Davis has been dogged by allegations of misspending since he left as superintendent of the Washington County, N.C., school district in 2015. He has led the Ferguson-Florissant district since July 2015.
An audit of Washington County schools released in January 2016 concluded that Davis misused $16,000 in federal funds meant for at-risk children on entertainment and food for school events. It also said he failed to get proper authorization for $94,000 in travel, food and other merchandise purchases.
Last year, Ferguson-Florissant School Board President Paul Morris said after reviewing the audit with Davis and an attorney, that the board members remained confident in Davis and his integrity and leadership.
The Ferguson-Florissant district, whose 10,200 students are predominantly African-American and low-income, retains full accreditation in Missouri but has teetered on the brink of falling into the provisionally accredited range in recent years.
Davis’ current salary is $213,286, with an additional $9,150 in insurance benefits, according to the district.
Under Davis’ leadership as superintendent, the district opened a new science and technology-focused gifted school, the first of its kind for the district, to provide an option for the district’s higher-performing students. Davis also pursued a billion-word reading initiative to improve academics among lower-performing students.
Prior to his tenure in North Carolina, Davis previously served as deputy chief of schools in Chicago Public Schools. He also served as principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels in the Wilson County schools system and as a special assistant to the superintendent there.
He earned his doctorate in administration, planning and social policy and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University.