Thursday, February 7, 2013

Poor vetting of school candidate: Has LRSD noticed?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 9:36 AM

I linked yesterday to a Wisconsin news article about the withdrawal of an Illinois school superintendent, Walter Milton Jr., from a search for a new leader in Madison. The angle is that the same man had applied previously to be superintendent in Little Rock and is again on this year's list of finalists applicants.

Here's further reporting today in which the Madison newspaper says that city's consultant concedes some problems in its background check.

Gary Ray, president of Ray and Associates, did not return calls Wednesday and earlier this week seeking comment. He told The Capital Times on Wednesday the board was "well aware" of Milton's work record.

[Board member Mary] Burke said Milton provided documents explaining a New York financial audit that found he had been overpaid and the hiring in Michigan of a former business partner who had been convicted of child molestation. Burke said Tuesday after learning more about Milton that the board had not been given a "full accounting."

Ray has not responded to a State Journal request for the documents provided to the board.

This naturally raises the question about the background check by a different consulting firm working in Little Rock and what its materials say about this particular candidate. I've asked School Board President Dianne Curry if she's aware of the Wisconsin situation and whether it's had any impact on Milton's position as a contender for Little Rock's job. Milton has been unavailable for comment in Wisconsin, as he was when I tried to reach him a couple of years ago about Little Rock School Board member Michael Nellums' activities related to his candidacy. Board member Jody Carreiro said he was aware of the issue. He said the LRSD's search firm was still in the vetting process and board members hadn't been provided with materials about the candidates yet.

UPDATE: I heard from Milton this afternoon. He said his record was an open book, including a "stellar" record during his six years in Springfield. He said the items brought up about him were inaccurate and old. He said he wouldn't have been hired in Springfield had there been anything to the reports. He said he'd acted quickly when he learned that a man he'd hired as a curriculum director at a Michigan district faced a court accusation and that the man resigned rather than being fired. But Milton also said the man was ultimately acquitted of wrongdoing. He said the audit questions similarly were inaccurate and produced in an audit after he left the school district, a move that left some people unhappy with him. He said a credit card for general use by several employees bore his name but that his own expenditures were all within business guidelines. He said he'd be happy to go into detail on any and all issues. "I'm all about transparency," he said. As for Nellums: He said he'd met him once at an educational conference some years ago, but had no deeper association.

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