Education — July 9, 2015 at 9:53 am

Teachers union wants its money back from search firm who chose former EAA chief Covington as finalist to run district


This is getting comical

As I have been writing about for the past week, Metro Nashville Public Schools is looking for a new director to run its school district. They hired Hazard Young Attea & Associates, a search firm, to interview candidates and present them with four finalists. One of those four finalists was none other than disgraced former Education Achievement Authority Chancellor and Kansas City Schools superintendent John Covington.

As I wrote yesterday, one of the references that Covington listed on his resume the head of the Kansas City teachers union. Puzzled by this, the incoming Metro Schools union leader Erik Huth gave her a call and, according to a media release put out by Huth, she LOLed when she was told that Covington had used her as a reference:

We called the president of the Kansas City local about the reference and she laughed, thinking it was absurd.

She had not been asked by Covington to be a reference and had not been contacted by the search firm to verify her name being used. She was clear she would not recommend him for the job. This raises even more questions about the validity of the search and the documents supplied to the board.

Well, now the teachers union is asking for its money back from Hazard Young Attea & Associates:

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates presented their list of four candidates to the Metro Schools board on Monday. One of the candidates, John Covington, has a controversial history that includes resignations under fire at his last two jobs.

“This board should recoup some of the money that belongs to the school district since the search firm couldn’t pick up the phone and call each one of Covington’s references,” said Erik Huth, president-elect of the MNEA.

The teachers’ union said it checked with one of Covington’s references, who laughed and said she was never contacted.

“She said there was no way she’d recommend him for the superintendency in Nashville based on what happened in Kansas City,” Huth said.

Huth said the search firm and its $45,000 to $60,000 fee is unacceptable.

“What we’re asking now is that the search firm … return the money that it took from the board of education to conduct the search,” Huth said. “Because clearly they did not do the due diligence of checking references, which they indicated they would do in the contract.”

He also said this:

I really thought that when the board of education entered into a contract with the search firm, they were hiring a search firm that would do appropriate vetting, or at least, call up all of the references to find out what they knew about the individual.

They have a point, right? First of all, Covington abruptly quit his last two jobs heading up school districts. In Kansas City the district lost its accreditation shortly after he bailed and, Detroit, well the cloud of scandal Covington left under and the abject failure of the EAA under his “leadership” have been well-documented here at Eclectablog. And then, to top it all off, Covington padded his resume with the name of someone who did NOT support him and the search firm never even bothered to check.

Given all of that, I’d say the district IS owed at least part of its fee back. And Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates ought to find something better to do, something that they are actually good at. Because choosing good leaders for large school districts clearly is outside of their skill set.