Emails exchanged last week between members of the Little Rock School Board and the consultants it hired to find a superintendent, McPherson and Jacobson, indicate that at least a couple of board members were unhappy that the search firm had suggested Dr. Walter Milton.
Milton’s career, as has been pointed out here, has not been without controversy (including his decision as superintendent of Fallsburg Central School District, N.Y., to hire a former business partner who had been convicted on child molestation charges (Milton said he didn’t know about the charges), an audit that found he was overpaid by the New York school district, a foreclosure action on his New York house, and the fact that he resigned his current job as superintendent of schools in Springfield, Ill., after an extension of his contract was denied).
On Feb. 20, board member Jody Carreiro complained to Bald Knob School District Superintendent Kieth Williams, a consultant for McPherson and Jacobson, that Milton was “proving to be a giant distraction.” From that email:
“I continue to tell people that I am focused on 3 very high quality candidates that we are interviewing. But after being lectured a bit on the difference between vetting and googling, I am growing more concerned about how much vetting was done. Dr. Milton provided the same 3 pieces of paper to the Dem-Gaz, based on today’s article, that were shown to us by Loe as proof positive that everything about Dr. Milton was false or exaggerated. This would lead one to conclude that the only vetting done was asking Dr. Milton for his explanation instead of independent verification. … I am starting to get lots of email questioning why we are even interviewing him. I hope this does not distract from the 3 good candidates.
I have two different groups that are telling me the overturned conviction of Dr. Milton’s friend was just a prelude to a conviction and that he is serving time now. If either of these provide independent documentation it will be very embarrassing to the board and to McPherson and Jacobson.
Milton provided the Democrat-Gazette a document showing his friend, Julius B. Anthony, had been acquitted of the child molestation charge. But Anthony has since been jailed on charges of sexual battery, in June 2008, according to the website mugshots.com.
In response to Carreiro, McPherson consultant Loe Dunn sent an email that hotly defended Milton and the firm’s vetting of him, writing “Yes, there is a difference between “vetting” and “googling.”
On Feb. 21, board member Leslie Plowman Fisken emailed Dunn about her response to Carriero, which was copied to the board as a whole:
I appreciate your efforts in our superintendent search. I, as a new board member, am still confused as to why an applicant like Dr. Milton, with a questionable background, would be recommended to us as someone that could lead the Little Rock School District. Regardless of work history, success and media scrutiny, Dr. Milton has a history whereby he has made questionable decisions and judgment calls that, at a minimum, cast a shadow of doubt upon his honesty and ethics. These traits are a must in any candidate that will lead this district. I find his application a distraction and an insult to the applications of Drs. [Stefanie] Phillips, [Dexter] Suggs and [Connie] Hathorn.
Milton, who will be interviewed for the job on Monday and meet with the public at 12:30 p.m. that day, and Dunn have a defender on the board, Norma Johnson. On Feb. 22, Johnson sent an email to Dunn, who is the campus director for the Louisiana Delta Community College Campus Sites in Bastrop, La., according to the McPherson and Jacobson website, praising her for her work in the superintendent search.
Ms Dunn, you have done a great with your search superintendent search. My fellow board members, please understand that we all had the opportunity to voice our opinion before we considered who to interview. Ms Dunn has done her part, so please leave her alone, it is time for us to do our part. If you are not pleased with a candidate, then don’t vote for him/her but don’t keep attacking Ms Dunn. My goodness, what is wrong with you guys. I hope I daon’t have any grammatical eroors, they wil lnail me to the cross.
Johnson also wrote board member Greg Adams:
Greg, I have a questions, Anti-Bullying Advisory Board Chair, does any of this border on ‘Bullying”? I am almost sure there is a better and more respectful way of conducting business, why this, I am not sure. We were off to a good start and now I smell some crapp.
In reply, Adams wrote Johnson, “This looks more to me like strongly felt and sometimes strongly expressed disagreements — assertively but not aggressively expressed. … Will be a good discussion for us.”
McPherson and Jacobson have a contract for $21,500 plus expenses with the district.
The school district provided the emails to the Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.