Michelle Blouin-Williams, the embattled CEO of the charter organization New Beginnings Schools Foundation, has resigned amid allegations of falsifying public records and allowing one of the three schools she oversees to engage in grade-fixing, the charter's board announced Tuesday.

She had been suspended with pay on April 1 after facing accusations of allowing employees to change F's to D's and D's to C's on students' records at John F. Kennedy High School. She also had been accused of making it appear that the charter's board of directors had approved a nearly $1 million bus contract with the company Scholars First when at least one member says it didn't.

The board hired a private law firm, Adams and Reese, to investigate the allegations. The board's statement Tuesday didn't say what proof, if any, the firm found corroborating any allegations.

"The board has been in constant contact with the investigators to determine whether any impropriety has occurred," the statement read. "We have also been in contact with Michelle Blouin-Williams. On May 7, Michelle Blouin-Williams tendered her resignation as the CEO from the NBSF Network."

The decision marks a steep fall for Blouin-Williams, who had worked her way up to hold top administrative jobs with the Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish school systems before being named CEO of New Beginnings in 2016.

Blouin-Williams, who had an annual salary at New Beginnings of $175,000, plus $45,792 in insurance and retirement benefits, served as chief administrative officer under Orleans Parish Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. for a year.

Before that, she served as the top aide to former Jefferson schools chief James Meza before seeking but failing to be named superintendent after Meza retired in 2015. She was passed over for Isaac Joseph.

Before seeking the top post in the Jefferson school system — the biggest in the state — she had a 25-year career there, holding posts such as deputy superintendent, chief academic officer, chief human capital officer and math teacher.

Blouin-Williams had her work cut out for her when she started at New Beginnings, a charter organization that was started in 2004 by Meza, a pioneer in New Orleans’ charter school movement.

The organization has long struggled with high employee turnover and poor academic track records. The year Blouin-Williams started, three of the group's four schools were in decline academically, according to grades released in 2015.

Medard H. Nelson Charter School had fallen from a D to an F, while Pierre A. Capdau Charter had dropped from a B to a C. Gentilly Terrace Charter School had also slipped a few points, keeping a D grade, while Lake Area New Tech Early College High rose one letter grade to a C.

Gentilly Terrace closed in 2016 when it merged with Capdau, which has since dropped to a D. Nelson has maintained an F grade. Lake Area has become John F. Kennedy High School and has kept a C grade.

The CEO came under fire earlier this year after former data director Runell King said he was wrongfully fired for alerting the board that employees at Kennedy had manually changed grades.

Investigators with Adams and Reese also looked into allegations that Blouin-Williams altered the minutes of board meetings to make it appear that the board had approved a $1 million school bus contract that did not appear on the original meeting agenda. At least one board member didn't recall approving the deal, WWL-TV first reported.

The contract was with Scholars First, a company that has recently gotten in trouble with state officials for allegedly falsifying insurance documents to secure business with charter schools.

Blouin-Williams denied that school employees gave credits to students who didn't earn them in an apparent attempt to raise performance scores. She declined to comment on the allegations about the Scholars First contract.

In addition, an audit from the 2017-18 school year, released in January, showed numerous problems in management at New Beginnings. Auditors said Blouin-Williams understated expenses by $1.1 million and budgeted a $4.9 million deficit to “spend down” accumulated assets for instructional improvement, but “ineffective monitoring” resulted in spending “significantly exceeding that which was budgeted,” the accounting firm Bruno & Tervalon found.

On Tuesday, the board said it had already started searching for a new CEO. "We are working to make sure that leadership is in place to start the upcoming school year off strong," it said. 



Follow Della Hasselle on Twitter, @dellahasselle.