Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Erwin to Herald-Leader: "I don’t know why people are upset..."

This morning, Kentucky Education Commissioner-select Barbara Erwin told the Herald-Leader that she couldn't understand why there would be a controversy over her contract in Illinois.

..."A contract is a contract," she said.

Hummmm. Let's see.

Maybe, it because the backroom contract dealings were recently found to be a willful violation of the Open Meetings Act by an Illinois state's attorney.

Or maybe, it's because the board's ratification of Erwin's contract, on June 8, 2007, with its provision awarding 85 sick days starting in 2005, was contrary to Illinois law and will likely cost the district.

Or just maybe, its because Human Resources Director Tony Spahr produced a memo that appears to show Erwin's attempt to claim yet another 85 sick days starting in 2004 - which was clearly NOT a part of her contract.

Or just possibly maybe, it's because new Superintendent Donald Scholmann (who has a big mess to clean up in a big hurry) doesn't like it that confidential district files regarding Erwin have come up missing. (A confidential source close to school district leadership in St Charles thinks Erwin's personnel file, where her contract was recently placed -some say to shield it from public view - is among the missing documents.)

So, if a contract is a contract - What do you call it when a superintendent tries to force a subordinate to grant her extra sick days that are NOT in the contract?

Citizens in St Charles are using the word fraud.

This from Raviya Ismail at the Herald-Leader.

Questions from old job follow new state education commissioner

FRANKFORT --Kentucky’s new education commissioner, appearing at her first Kentucky Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, had little to say about new questions being raised in her former school district in St. Charles, Ill.

Those questions include a police investigation into missing paperwork from the administrative offices of the St. Charles school district, according to a story in the Kane County (Ill.) Chronicle.

At the state school board meeting, Barbara Erwin said she has been out of the country on vacation and knew nothing of the police investigation.

“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” she said.

According to the Kane County newspaper’s Web site, police began investigating after receiving a call from new Superintendent Donald Schlomann.

“The police are investigating the potential removal of documents that are district property that reflect information that is normally kept confidential within the district,” Schlomann told the Chronicle.

The newspaper quoted the school board’s president, Kathleen Howell, as saying that the documents are related to Erwin but that she had “no idea what is missing. We’re not sure if it has been misplaced or what.”

The Kane County newspaper also reported this week about a controversy involving Erwin being awarded 85 sick days for every year of work since 2004 in the St. Charles district. According to the Chronicle, the arrangement was outlined in a February memo Erwin gave to the district’s human resources director.

The newspaper says the memo “appears to be an effort to retroactively apply a 2005 contract amendment to the deal that she signed to become District 303’s superintendent in 2004.”

The Chronicle reports that the amendment gave Erwin 85 sick days’ credit on each July 1 of her contract from 2005 to 2010. It was voted on in closed session April 11, 2005, but was not formally ratified until June 8, 2007.

The newspaper says the school board also has been sanctioned for violating the Open Meetings Act for approving the contract extension in private.

Links to the Chronicle stories: 1, 2.

In Frankfort on Wednesday, Erwin said she didn’t understand why the issue had become controversial. She said that the sick days were outlined in her contract and that she received them instead of a getting a raise for three years.

“I find it interesting because a contract is a contract,” she told the Herald-Leader. “I didn’t take a raise for three years in lieu of 85 sick days. I don’t know why people are upset about it now.”

Heavy weather

They weren't talking fraud in Frankfort where the Kentucky Board of Education is meeting today. The new commissioner greeted board members with hugs and kisses.

Barbara Erwin's first words to the Kentucky Board of Education this morning will sound prophetic to the folks in WestChiTown.

"I just left Chicago...and there seems to be some weather coming," she said.

She told the board that she has been teaching an Educational Leadership course this week at an Illinois university; that it was wonderful to be Frankfort; that she had visited Mount Sterling; and that she noticed that Kevin Nolan's office of legal services was "a little too far" from hers. "We're going to be really close," Erwin said. (In Scottsdale Arizona, she had a $650,000 close relationship with legal services.)

Then she delivered the obligatory promise that marks successful candidacy in modern school leadership.

"I believe the Commonwealth truly will be the first state that reaches proficiency for all of its children," Erwin said.

There is some evidence to the contrary.
Yesterday, KDE Communication Director Lisa Gross told Kentucky School News and Commentary that she was "not privy to the specifics of what will be discussed during the closed session" scheduled for later this afternoon, but that "board members have said that they consider [Erwin's] hiring to be a settled issue."


Anonymous said...

good luck Kentucky. Your article states that Erwin was both ont of the country on vacation and in Illinois teaching an Ed. Leadership course at the same time. She's under contract in STC through tomorrow but has been seen here for days. Lock up the vault - she's about to hire her friends to do her job. That way she can be anywhere but in Kentucky

Anonymous said...

Erwin was here only 9 months before sherequested 85 sick days/year. She had to hurry and get it done when her inner circle on the board falied to get re-elected. It had nothing to do with a raise - that request would come later. Listen to the tape - When Raehl continues to question the terms, Hewell says "It's just something we can do for her." NOT "This is instead of a raise." I'm willing to bet that if you listenend to the previous discussions of the matter on tape, you wouldn't hear any mention of a raise!